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^tantiard EtBrarp (6tiition 

A HISTORY OF 
THE GREAT WAR 

IN FOUR VOLUMES 

r 

VOLUME IV 



General John Joseph Pershing 

From a painting by E. Hodgson Smart 



A HISTORY OF 

THE GREAT WAR 

BY 
JOHN BUCHAN 

VOLUME IV 




BOSTON AND NEW YORK 

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY 
1923 



COPYRIGHT, 1922, BY JOHN BUCHAN 
COPVRIGHr, 1922, BY HOUGHTON MIFFLIN CO. 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 



tCbe l&itiereiae J^ttss 

CAMBRIDGE . MASSACHUSETTS 
PRINTED IN THE U.S.A. 



13N1V. OF ^ , ,,KAHi 

AT BOSTON - UoHAni 



CONTENTS. 

BOOK III. {Continued). 

THE GREAT SALLIES. 

LXXXin. Germany reshuffles her Cards (October 27, 
1916-October 31, 1917) 

The Situation in Austria — The Koerber Ministry 

— The Clam-Martinitz Ministry — Count Czernin 

— The Stockholm Conference — The Popular Move- 
ment in Germany — The Fall of Bethmann- 
Hollweg — Michaelis Imperial Chancellor — The 
Reichstag Resolution of 1914 — The Vatican Note 

— Kuhlmann's Policy — Fall of Michaelis — Count 
Hertling appointed Chancellor. 

LXXXIV. The Summer at Verdun and on the Aisne 

(June 3-November 2, 191 7) . . . .22 

Petain's Policy — The Summer Fighting on the 
Aisne — The French Fourth Army at Moronvillers 

— Guillaumat's Advance at Verdun — The Aisne 
Heights cleared. 

LXXXV. The Downfall of Russia (July 23-November 

7. 1917) 32 

End of Brussilov's Offensive — Kornilov appointed 
Commander-in-Chief — The Valour of Rumania 

— The Moscow Conference — Hutier takes Riga — 
Kerenski and Kornilov — The Bolsheviks make 
ready — Fall of Kerenski Government — Lenin 
and Trotski in Power. 

LXXXVI. Caporetto and the Piave (October 16, 1917- 

January 28, 1918) 47 

The New German Plan — Changes on the Isonzo 
Front — The Turin Riots — Otto von Below's 
Attack — The Break at Caporetto — The Austrians 
re-enter Gorizia — Retreat of the Italian Third 
Army — The Line of the Tagliamento — The Line 
of the Livenza — The Piave — The Conference of 
Rapallo — The Defence of the Piave — The Winter 
Fighting — The Consequences of the Caporetto 
Disaster. 



vi CONTENTS. 

LXXXVII. The Mesopotamian Situation and the Fall 

OF Jerusalem (April-December ii, 1917) . 67 

The Summer of 1917 in Mesopotamia — The Cap- 
ture of Ramadie and Tekrit — Death of Sir Stan- 
ley Maude — Allenby's Problem in Palestine — 
Capture of Beersheba — Fall of Gaza — Capture 
of Jaffa — Advance into the Judsan Hills — Al- 
lenby enters Jerusalem. 

LXXXVIII. Cambrai (November 6-December 7, 1917) . 86 

The New British Plan — The Tanks — Byng's 
Preparation — Opening of the Battle of Cambrai 

— The Check at Flesquieres — Close of First Day 

— The Advance of 21st November — German 
Reinforcements arrive — The Fight for Bourlon 

— The Enemy Counter-attack — Summary of 
Battle — Military Position of Britain at close of 
1917- 

LXXXIX. The Conquest of East Africa (January, 

1915-November 26, 1917) .... 105 

The Position in 1915 — Lettow-Vorbeck's Policy 

— Arrival of General Smuts — His Strategical 
Plan — The Gap of Kilimanjaro passed — Van 
Deventer marches on Kondoa Irangi — The Ad- 
vance down the Tanga Railway — Capture of 
Tanga — Advance on Kilossa — The Fighting 
astride the Central Railway — Dar-es-Salaam oc- 
cupied — The Rufiji crossed — Smuts returns to 
England — The Campaign of Hoskins and Van 
Deventer — The Colony cleared of the Enemy — 
Summary of East African Campaign. 

XC. The Extremity of Russia (November 8, 

1917-March 5, 1918) 128 

The Bolshevik Political Creed — Armistice with 
Germany — The Brest Litovsk Conference — The 
Position of the Baltic States — Poland — The 
Ukraine — Finland — Rumania — The Farce of 
the Constituent Assembly — Trotski's Hesitation 

— The Brest Litovsk Treaty — The Gains of the 
Central Powers — The Bolshevik Performance — 
The Czecho-Slovaks. 

XCI. Political Reactions (October, 1917-April 18, 

1918) 152 

Lord Lansdowne's Letter — Discussion of War 
Aims — A "League of Nations" — President Wil- 
son's Fourteen Points — M. Clemenceau becomes 
Premier of France — Mr. Lloyd George's Position 

— The War Cabinet — The "Business Man" — 
The Surveyor-General of Supply — Retirement of 



CONTENTS. vH 

/ 



Lord Jellicoe — Criticism of Army Management — Unity 
of Command — The Versailles Council — The Execu- 
tive Committee — Resignation of Sir William Robert- 
son — Weakness of the Versailles Arrangement — 
Lord Milner becomes Secretary for War. 



XCII. The Somme Retreat (March 21-April 5, 1918) . 177 

The Position at the Beginning of 1918 — The War on a 
Single Front — Ludendorff 's Scheme — The New Ger- 
man Tactics — German Dispositions — British Dispo- 
sitions — The British Fifth Army — The Attack of 21st 
March — British Battle Zone pierced — Retreat of 
Fifth Army — The Somme Line relinquished — German 
Failure at Arras — Loss of Peronne and Bapaume — 
Desperate Position of Fifth Army — Foch appointed 
Generalissimo — Fight for Amiens — Secoiid Failure at 
Arras — The Enemy stayed on the Somme — Close of 
Battle — Reactions in Britain — Summary of Battle 
— The True Responsibility. 

XCIII. The Battle of the Lys (April 7-May 27, 1918) . 218 

The Lys Area — British and German Dispositions — 
Quast's Attack of 9th April — Armin's Attack of loth 
p^prW — The Struggle for the Messines Ridge — Haig's 
Appeal to his Troops — Fall of Bailleul — The Fight for 
Mont Kemmel — Close of Action — The Australians at 
Villers-Bretonneux — The Position of the Allies at the 
end of May. 

XCIV. The War at Sea: Zeebrugge and Ostend (Octo- 
ber 17, 1917-May 10, 1918) 238 

The Control of the Submarine Peril — America's 
Naval Co-operation — Last Fight of the Goeben and the 
Breslau — Sir Roger Keyes's Plan — The Attack on Zee- 
brugge — The Attack on Ostend — Paralysis of German 
Fleet. 

XCV. The Last Enemy Offensive (May 26-July 18, 

1918) 249 

Opinion in Germany in Early Summer of 1918 — Lu- 
dendorff's Next Stage — The Third Battle of the Aisne 

— Germans reach the Marne — First American Troops 
in Action — The Stand on the Ourcq and at Rheims — 
Hutier's Attack on Lassigny Hills — Austria's Last Of- 
fensive — Austrian and Italian Dispositions — The 
Attack of 15th June — Hoetzendorff's Failure at Asiago 

— Boroevitch's Initial Success on the Piave — The Ital- 
ian Counter-stroke — Results of the Battle — Foch's 
Last Defensive Action — Ludendorff 's Culminating 
Effort — The Second Battle of the Marne — The Ameri- 
can Part — Mangin's Counter-attack of l8th July — 
The First Step to Victory. 



viii CONTENTS. 

XCVI. The Fourth Year of War: A Retrospect (June 

28, 1917-June 28, 1918) 282 

Behaviour of British People after March Crisis — The 
Maurice Debate — The Submarine — Understanding 
with America — The Position in Eastern Europe — 
The Bolshevik Nightmare — Murder of the Imperial 
Family — Allies Attempt to restore Eastern Front — 
Murma/i and Archangel — Siberia — The Russian 
Volunteer Army — Transcaucasia — Friction between 
Turkey and Germany — Dunsterville at Baku — Feel- 
ing in Germany — Resignation of Kuhlmann — The 
First Overtures for Peace. 



BOOK IV. 

THE SURRENDER. 

XCVII. The Turning of the Thde (July i8-September 

24, 1918) ^ 309 

Foch's Strategy of the Last Battles — The Germans 
driven behind the Vesle — Haig strikes on 8th August 

— The Battle of Amiens — Byng's Attack of 21st 
August — Battles of Albert and Bapaume — The Last 
Battle of Arras — The Capture of Peronne — Capture 
of Drocourt-Queant Switch — Hindenburg Line reached 

— Pershing clears the St. Mihiel Salient — The Eve of 
the Final Effort. 

XCVII I. The Downfall of Bulgarlv and Turkey (De- 
cember 9, 1917-October 31, 1918) . . . 337 

Bulgaria's Growing Discontent — Allied and Enemy 
Dispositions in the Balkans — The Attack of 15th Sep- 
tember — The Serbians break the Bulgarian Front — 
Capture of Prilep — Attack of British and Greeks — 
Bulgaria sues for Peace — The Armistice signed — 
Consequences for Germany — Allenby's Doings after 
the Capture of Jerusalem — Jericho taken — The Two 
Raids East of Jordan — The Summer Stagnation — 
The Final Campaign — Its Plan — The Attack of 21st 
September — Destruction of Turkish VIII. and VII. 
Armies — Retreat of Turkish IV. Army — Capture of 
Damascus — Capture of Aleppo — Bagdad Railway 
reached — Turkey surrenders. 

XCIX. The Breaking of the German Defences (Sep- 
tember 25-October 10, 191 8) 361 

The German Position on 25th September — American 
Attack on the Mense — Haig breaks through Hinden- 
burg Line — The Belgian Advance — The Arpeggio of 
the Allied Armies — The British in Open Country — 
The Fall of Cambrai. 



CONTENTS. ix 

C. The Last Phase in the West (September 30-No- 

vember 4, 1918) 377 

Prince Max of Baden appointed Imperial Chancellor — 
LudendorfF insists on Peace Negotiations — Correspondence 
with President Wilson — Haig forces the Line of the Selle 
— Fall of Le Cateau — The Battle of the Rivers — Hard 
Fighting of the Americans — A " Democratic" Government 
in Germany — Resignation of Ludendorflf — Italian Attack 
on Piave Front — Battle of Vittorio-Veneto — Capitulation 
of Austria — Fall of the Hapsburgs. 

CI. The Surrender OF Germany (November i -November 

II, 1918) 402 

Foch's Final Plans — The British take Valenciennes — Ad- 
vance of Gouraud and Pershing — Haig clears Mormal 
Forest — German Emperor flees to the Army — Mutiny in 
German Fleet — German Peace Delegation chosen — Byng 
enters Maubeuge — The Belgians enter Ghent — Vervins 
and Rethel occupied — Debeney enters Hirson — Pershing 
at Sedan — Republic declared in Germany — Emperor 
flees to Holland — German Delegates reach Foch — The 
Terms — The Canadians at Mons — Armistice signed — 
The Last Day. 

CII. Conclusion 419 

The Aftermath of War — The French occupy Alsace- 
Lorraine — The Bridgeheads on the Rhine — The British 
at Cologne — Surrender of the German Fleet — A Pano- 
ramic View of the War — Summary of the Main Stages — 
Germany's Great Achievement — Her Mistakes — Reasons 
for Allied Victory — A War of the Rank and File — The 
Allied Civilian Leaders — Foch — Haig — Gain and Loss 
in W'ar — The True Internationalism — Difficulties of 
Reconstruction — The Offering of Youth. 

APPENDIX. 
The Terms of Armistice 447 

Index of Military and Naval Units 459 

General Index 477 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



VOLUME IV 



General John Joseph Pershing Frontispiece 

American Troops Embarking at Southampton 272 

From a painting by Sir John Lavery, R,A. 

Mont St. Quentin and Peronne 328 

From a painting by Francis E. Hodge 

The Allied Watch on the Rhine 430 

From a drawing by Muirhead Bone 

Field-Marshal Earl Haig of Bemersyde 438 



LIST OF MAPS. 

1. Guillaumat's Advance at Verdun 26 

2. The Malmaison Action 30 

3. The Italian Retreat to the Piave .... 64 

4. The Capture of Jerusalem ....... 82 

5. Cambrai 100 

6. The East African Campaign 124 

7. The Somme Retreat 212 

8. The Battle of the Lys 234 

9. Zeebrugge 242 

ID. Ostend 246 

11. The Third Battle of THE Aisne 254 

12. The Lassigny Battle 260 

13. The Battle of the Piave 270 

14. The Second Battle of the Marne 278 

15. The British Ad VANCE on the Hindenburg (Siegfried) 

Line 334 

16. The Defeat of Bulgaria 344 

1 7. Allenby's Advance to Damascus 358 

18. The American Campaign ON THE Meuse . . . 374 

19. Vittorio-Veneto 398 

20. The Victory in the West 410 

21. The Allies on the Rhine 424 



A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR, 



CHAPTER LXXXIII 

GERMANY RESHUFFLES HER CARDS 
October 27, igi6-October 31, 1917 

The Situation in Austria — The Koerber Ministry — The Clam-Martinitz Min- 
istry — Count Czernin — The Stockholm Conference — The Popular 
Movement in Germany — The Fall of Bethmann-HoUweg — Michaelis 
Imperial Chancellor — The Reichstag Resolution of 1914 — The Vatican 
Note — Kuhlmann's Policy — Fall of Michaelis — Count Hertling ap- 
pointed Chancellor. 

THE student who sought to follow German policy during the 
war was not embarrassed with too much material. The 
nation was so well disciplined that it was hard to tell when a speech 
or a press article represented a genuine opinion, or was only a move 
in a diplomatic game. The Main Committee of the Reichstag, 
where the more important discussions took place, sat in secret 
session, and reports of its doings leaked out only by accident. 
Hence the sequence of German politics had to be judged mainly 
by events which were apparent to all the world — the fall of a 
minister, an official pronouncement, and machinations in neutral 
countries where disclosure soon or late was certain. Yet, in spite 
of the mist, the outlines were unmistakable. Events beyond her 
eastern frontier had forced upon Germany a new orientation of 
policy, if she was to keep her own people in hand and pluck the 
fruits which the fates had generously offered. We have already 
seen her efforts in Russia itself to promote the anarchic elements 



2 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR 

in the revolution. But it was also her business to take advantage 
of the new wave of Jacobinism in order to embarrass the Allies by 
emphasizing those elements in their government and purpose 
which were least Jacobinical. Like Mithridates in Asia Minor, on 
behalf of her own satrapy she was ready to preach the "social 
revolution." It was a delicate game, for she had no desire to 
rouse among her own tame people the furies she would fain release 
elsewhere. It is the purpose of this chapter to consider Germany 
in the role of virtuous democrat, the junker masquerading in the 
cap of liberty. 

The situation in Austria would have forced her to this policy, 
even had there been no other reason, for Austria was nervous, 
profoundly depressed, and feverishly anxious to explore any alley 
that might lead to peace. Of all the members of the Teutonic League, 
except Turkey, she had suffered most. Her armies had been time 
and again defeated, and she had been compelled to take the first 
shock of each Russian offensive. Such i5)ride as she possessed had 
been cut to the quick by her Prussian taskmasters, and she had seen 
her best troops and her chief generals moved about the map with- 
out her assent. Further, the economic strain was growing des- 
perate. Every corner of the land was hungry, and her Government 
made no effort to distribute food stocks with anything like justice 
among the different classes. It looked as if Austria might drop 
out of the war from sheer exhaustion, and this was a possibility 
which Germany dare not contemplate, for without Austria the 
Miileleuropa ideal was impossible, and Mitteleuropa, in some form 
or other, was at the root of German policy. Austria-Hungary was 
essential to the Berlin-Bagdad scheme — that Drang nach Osten, 
undertaken in order to consolidate the fatherland and to provide 
a continuous block of territory, economically self-sufficient and 
strategically invulnerable, to counterbalance the sea-united British 
Empire. The longer the war lasted the clearer it became that this 
extension to the south-east was the one thing Germany could not 
forego and remain the Germany of the Hohenzollerns. Long before 
1914 she had stretched her tentacles beyond the Balkans, over 
Anatolia, northern Syria, and Mesopotamia. By November 1916 
she had conquered Poland, Serbia, and the better part of Wallachia, 
and with Bulgaria and Turkey as her satellites the bloc was complete. 
She did not content herself with the military occupation of these 
territories. The guns were scarcely silent before she had begun 
their political and economic reorganization with a view to the 
Mitteleuropa hegemony. Should Austria fail her the pin would 



I9i6] AUSTRIAN POLITICS 3 

drop out of the whole machine, and Germany had no intention of 
permitting such defection. 

In the nature of things Austria could not be a very docile or 
willing ally. Only the Germans and Magyars among her people 
accepted the Prussian policy, and it is likely that the land would 
not have shown a majority in favour of war. The Poles hated the 
Germans, though a considerable number, owing to their suspicion 
of Russia, accepted the lead of Vienna. The same was true of the 
Ruthenes in eastern Galicia. Her other races, the Czechs and the 
Slovaks, the Croats and the Slovenes, the Rumanians and the 
Italians, were hostile or indifferent to the Central Powers. Partly 
they were irredentists, like the last two, looking for succour from 
their nationals across the borders ; partly they were self-subsistent ; 
nationalities — the Northern Slav group of Czechs and Slovaks ; 
with Polish and Ruthene allies, and the Southern Slav group of 
Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs — whose ideal was racial unity. Even 
in Austria itself there were rifts within the lute. The Court officials, 
the bureaucracy, and the hierarchy were on Germany's side. So 
were the German bourgeoisie ; so were the rich financial houses, 
largely controlled by Jews. The piquant spectacle was presented 
of the Christian Socialist party, clerical and anti-Semitic, joining 
hands with the National Union of Liberals, Semitic and anti- 
clerical, in the honourable task of working " pour le Roi de Prusse.'"i 
But certain powerful elements were jealous of German interference. 
The ancient nobility had no intention of playing the part of puppets 
pulled from Berlin, and loved the German as little as the Slav. 
The Army, the chief unifying force in the Empire, speedily lost its 
admiration for its efficient ally. By the autumn of 191 6 the great 
Austrian families and the whole corps of officers were in the mood 
to take offence at any hint of German dictation. The Dual Mon- 
archy was consequently no easy problem for Germany to handle. 
The non-German races, with the exception of the Magyars, were 
avowedly hostile, and they formed the bulk of the population ; 
while the Austrian magnates cast jealous eyes on every proposal 
from Berlin, and were resolved to assert the interests of their caste 
against an ally who treated the whole earth as material out of which 
to make real her grandiose dream. 

On October 27, 1916, after the murder of the Austrian premier, 
Count Sturgkh, Dr. Ernst von Koerber was entrusted with the 
formation of a new Cabinet. The Austrian Parliament, unlike the 
Hungarian Parliament, had never been in session during the war ; 
it had been prorogued in March 1914, and had remained suspended. 



4 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Jan. 

No public meeting had been allowed, the censorship was rigid, 
and Sturgkh's career, till the assassin's bullet cut it short, was 
peace itself compared with that of other belligerent statesmen. 
Koerber was an honest and fairly liberal bureaucrat, strongly 
pro-Austrian, and not disposed to listen readily to Pan-German 
extremism. His task was threefold — to agree with Germany on 
the future of Poland, to carry a new Ausgleich with Hungary, and 
to strengthen the non-Slav elements in the Austrian Parliament 
by the grant of a larger autonomy to Galicia. All three tasks 
raised the question of relations with Germany. Austria had ac- 
cepted unwillingly the German scheme as to Poland, which was 
given effect to by the proclamation of November 5, 191 6 ; but she 
hoped by her plan of Galician autonomy so to embarrass the 
German settlement as to revive the Austrian solution which Berlin 
had rejected. As to the new Ausgleich with Hungary, it had been 
proposed to make it run for twenty years, so as to make easy the 
economic rapprochement with Germany on* which the Mitteleuropa 
scheme depended. It was clear that Koerber was inclined to prove 
refractory to German guidance on all points, and the pro-German 
faction in Austria took alarm. The Premier was bombarded 
with protests and memoranda from the National Union, the Chris- 
tian Socialists, and the other satellites of Berlin. He proposed 
to submit the new Ausgleich to Parliament, and to this for obvious 
reasons both the Austro-Germans and the Magyars were opposed. 
Its advantages to Hungary were too apparent, its severe burden 
in the shape of food taxation upon the Austrian people too 
glaring. On 13th December he found himself compelled to resign. 
Koerber's fall seemed like the triumph of Berlin and Budapest 
over Vienna. Dr. Spitzmiiller was entrusted with the formation 
of a fresh Ministry, whose immediate business was to carry the 
new Ausgleich. But Spitzmiiller found it impossible to proceed 
without summoning Parliament, and such a step would raise other 
controversial matters which he wished to keep slumbering. By 
20th December he had failed to make any headway, and a Bohemian 
noble. Count Clam-Martinitz, was called to the task. At first sight 
this appeared to mark the dawn of a different policy. The young 
Emperor seemed to be about to surround himself with the advisers 
of his uncle, the Archduke Francis-Ferdinand. Baron Burian, 
the faithful disciple of Tisza, who had succeeded Count Berch told 
in January 1915 as Foreign Minister, was replaced by a Czech, 
Count Ottokar Czernin, who had been noted in the past for his 
anti-Magyar leanings. The Premier himself was a Czech, though 



I9I7] THE CLAM-MARTINITZ MINISTRY 5 

of the Germanized variety, and on the whole the new Ministry had 
a federaHst complexion. The more reactionary of the Court 
officials and permanent civil servants disappeared ; and Count 
Berchtold, who had always been at odds with Tisza, became Court 
Chamberlain. It looked as if the Emperor Charles intended to 
make a stand against the tyranny alike of Berlin and Budapest. 

But the appearance was illusory. The Bohemian members 
were at heart German centralists, and had nothing in common with 
the true Czech nationalists, such as Kramarz and Masaryk. Clam- 
Martinitz's programme was substantially the same as his pre- 
decessor's. For the first three months of 191 7 he attempted, by 
secret cabals and open negotiations, to effect a compromise between 
the conflicting interests, but found the task too hard. The de- 
mands of German nationalists, Austrian bureaucrats and courtiers, 
and Polish patriots proved incompatible. Suddenly upon this 
maze of intrigue and counter-intrigue fell like a thunderbolt the 
news of the Russian Revolution, and the situation was at once trans- 
formed. If Russia was to be preoccupied with her internal affairs 
so that her military effort languished, there was a chance of Austria 
coming to terms with her. But if an understanding was to be 
reached, it was essential that Austrian policy should wear a demo- 
cratic air, and above all that she should appear to be liberal towards 
the Slav nationalities. It was a supreme chance for the restless 
genius of Count Czernin, and on 14th April an offer, inspired by 
him, was made by Vienna to Petrograd. 

But when the Austrian Parliament met on 30th May Clam- 
Martinitz found his position impossible. The negotiations with 
Russia had not proceeded smoothly. Whatever attitude the new 
Government in Petrograd might adopt to the war aims of the 
Allies, it had very little to say to the overtures from Vienna. The 
Poles had become intractable, encouraged by Russia's proclama- 
tion of a complete and independent Poland. On the first day of 
the session the Czechs and the Southern Slavs demanded national 
union, and they would not be put off with the old answer. On 
i6th June the Polish group resolved to vote against the Budget, 
and this decision compelled Clam-Martinitz to resign. On 24th 
June Dr. Seidler formed a stop-gap Ministry of obedient civil 
servants. 

Meantime in Hungary one remarkable event had happened. In 
the last week of May Count Tisza fell from power. Up to the date 
of his fall he seemed to be more secure in office than any of his 
predecessors. He had negotiated the still unconfirmed Ausgleich, 



6 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [May 

which represented an uncommonly good bargain for Hungary as 
against Austria. He was the close ally of Berlin, as befitted one 
who was responsible for the war. The Magyars and the Prussians 
had natural affinities which Count Julius Andrassy was never tired 
of pointing out, and though Tisza had no enthusiasm for Mittel- 
europa, he had less for the ideals of the Allies. His following in 
Parliament was strong, for the opposition was never more than a 
bogus thing, to be used as a means of blackmailing the Emperor. 
He held a singular position for a man of his antecedents. A 
member of the ancient untitled Hungarian gentry (the title of 
Count, the badge of the Austrian connection, was inherited from 
his uncle, and was not twenty-four years old), he was by far the 
strongest man in the whole Dual Monarchy. A staunch Calvinist, 
he dictated to Austria, one of the most Catholic countries in Europe. 
His power came from his narrowness, his courage, and his contempt 
for opponents. He laughed alike at those who made speeches 
against him and those who tried to murddr him. He bullied and 
baited all who threatened him, from the Emperor down to the 
petty aristocrats of the opposition. He scorned tact and con- 
ciliation as the weapons of weaklings. His own instrument was 
the hammer, and he brought it down hard on the heads of all who 
stood in his way. Such a figure must rouse fierce antagonisms, 
and Tisza fell because he had made too many foes. His rivals 
in Parliament joined forces with the Emperor, and the combina- 
tion was too much for him. But there was never any question of 
a change of policy. The three Counts — Andrassy, Apponyi, and 
Karolyi — were all sworn to Germany's cause abroad and staunch 
for Magyar domination at home, though the last had a few pro- 
gressive phrases which deceived casual observers in Western 
Europe. It was a change of personalities, not of principles. The 
new Premier, Count Maurice Esterhazy, was a typical young Hun- 
garian nobleman, who had been educated at Oxford, and ten years 
earlier would have been a declared Anglophil. He had been a 
brother officer of the Emperor, and had an urbanity and tolerance 
which had been lacking in his masterful predecessor. But Tisza, 
though out of office, remained in power, and the bonds which 
Germany had riveted were in no way loosened. 

Nevertheless the unpopularity of Tisza and the desperate 
confusion of Austrian politics gave the Austrian Foreign Minister 
the chance for which he had been waiting. His aim was to be the 
peacemaker of Europe, for in a speedy peace he saw the only chance 
for the perpetuation of the Dual Monarchy. Already the omens 



191 7] THE STOCKHOLM CONFERENCE 7 

were alarming. The downfall of Tsarist Russia brought the break- 
up of Austria-Hungary nearer, for it removed Italy's chief fears 
about the political orientation of any future Southern Slav state, and 
this new fact in the situation was soon to be recognized in the Pact 
of Corfu, signed on 20th July by M. Pashitch, the Serbian Prime 
Minister, and Dr. Trumbitch, the President of the Southern Slav 
Committee. Czernin believed that the overtures must come from 
Berlin, and that Berlin must begin by democratizing its household. 
The submarine campaign was not succeeding as fast as Germany 
had hoped, and on this fact he built his chief hopes of success. 
On 1 2th April he presented a memorandum on the subject to the 
Emperor Charles, which was duly communicated to the Emperor 
William and his Chancellor. Then Czernin set himself to work 
on the Reichstag, and found a colleague and an instrument in 
Herr Erzberger, an emotional frondeur, who had been Germany's 
ablest foreign propagandist and was now a busy go-between in 
the cause of peace. 

If Germany's policy was affected on one side by Austria, a 
second source of influence was a movement suddenly appearing 
in certain neutral states. We have seen that early in April the 
Internationale* woke into activity, a body which, having been 
founded to promote universal harmony and peace, had exhibited 
to the world a marvellous spectacle of internal warfare. Trans- 
ferred from Brussels to the Hague after the outbreak of war, it 
had been a means for the self-advertisement of the Dutch German- 
ophll, Troelstra, and the Belgian Huysmans, who was not recog- 
nized by his countrymen. It issued invitations for a Socialist 
Conference at Stockholm, and a Dutch Scandinavian Committee 
was formed under the presidency of Branting, the leader of the 
Swedish Socialists, and the most generally respected figure in his 
party in Europe since the death of Jaur^s. His sympathies were 
strongly on the Allied side, and, though he was not responsible 
for the original invitations, he set to work to make the affair a 
practical success. During May the delegations began to arrive, 
and were received in audience by the Standing Committee. The 
Conference had suddenly assumed a new importance, owing to the 
insistence upon it by the leaders of the Russian Revolution as the 
first step towards the clarifying of the issues of the war. Austrian, 
Hungarian, and Bulgarian delegations came, and a curious group 
of Bohemians who were entirely repudiated by the Czech Socialist 
party. These deputies from enemy countries were to all intents 
* This was the Second International, which dated from 1889. 



8 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [June 

and purposes emissaries of their Governments with a mission to 
propose schemes which would do the utmost damage to the AlHes 
and the least to the Central Powers. Early in June came the 
delegation of the German Majority Socialists, which included — 
besides Scheidemann, the Majority leader — that Hermann MuUer 
who, on the eve of the declaration of war, had invited the French 
Socialists to vote against war credits. The programme which 
they circulated announced that Germany had fought only a de- 
fensive war; that the Allies, and especially Britain, were the 
aggressors ; and that imperialism was the cause of all the trouble 
— imperialism of the Allied and not of the Teutonic brand. 

Meantime the Conference was being hotly discussed outside 
Scandinavia. The French Socialist party began by refusing the 
invitation, and British Labour stuck to the resolution of the 
Manchester Congress that there could be no relation with enemy 
socialists so long as the invaded countries were not evacuated. 
But the Russian situation began to raise difftculties. The Soviets 
continued to press for a conference, and to repeat their formula, 
"No annexations or indemnities," without any attempt at a 
further definition. It was obvious that the attitude of these 
leading practitioners of applied socialism must weaken the original 
steadiness of the Allied refusal. The French delegates, MM. 
Moutet and Cachin, returned from Russia at the end of May, and 
secured a vote of the French National Council in favour of going 
to Stockholm — not, indeed, to sit with enemy delegates, but to 
have a separate meeting with the Standing Committee. On 1st 
June M. Ribot announced that his Government would refuse to 
grant passports for any such purpose. In Britain the situation 
was slightly different. No labour congress acknowledged the 
Conference, though the pacificist minority, the Independent Labour 
Party, would fain have attended. This the Government refused 
to permit ; but on 8th June Lord Robert Cecil declared that pass- 
ports would be granted to the delegates whom the Russian Soviets 
had invited to Petrograd, on the understanding that the holders 
did not take part in any international conference at Stockholm, 
or communicate directly or indirectly with enemy subjects. The 
concession was idle, for the British Seamen's and Firemen's Union, 
full of bitterness at German submarine atrocities, refused to allow 
the delegates to leave British shores. 

The proceedings at Stockholm during June were not calculated 
to induce more harmony in the reborn Internationale. It was 
found impossible to agree upon any formula, and the German 



1917J THE ALLIED SOCIALISTS 9 

delegates issued a programme which revealed most brazenly the 
farce of their whole position. They put in the forefront no an- 
nexations and no indemnities, and interpreted the latter phrase 
as excluding restitution for the ravages of war. They were willing 
to safeguard the independence of the states which had lost it dur- 
ing the war, such as Belgium and Serbia, and of the states which 
had regained it during the war, such as Russian Poland and Fin- 
land ; and they insisted upon independence for those peoples still 
in slavery — namely, Ireland, India, and the dependencies generally 
of Britain, France, Italy, and Japan. They declined to regard 
Alsace-Lorraine as a special nationality, and they made no refer- 
ence to the subject peoples of Austria, Germariy, and Turkey. 
Their programme was not far removed from Bethmann-Hollweg's 
appeal to the war map, the old doctrine of heati possidentes. What- 
ever Stockholm failed to do, it made the position of the Scheide- 
mann party abundantly clear. They had come as Government 
emissaries, and they departed after completing their mission, 
precisely like diplomats who had fulfilled their instructions. 

So far there had only been preliminary meetings, at which 
France, Britain, Italy, and America had not appeared. The 
Standing Committee proposed a plenary conference for August, 
at which Russia should be represented, and four missionaries of 
the Soviets toured Western Europe to prepare the ground. It 
was at once apparent to those who made their acquaintance that 
the four drew no distinction between enemy and Allied socialists ; 
that they were not interested in the question of the responsibility 
for war ; that they did not think in terms of nationalities at all ; 
and that their sole object was to prepare an international machinery 
for the class war which was their serious ideal. Presently it ap- 
peared that Western socialists were hopelessly divided upon these 
and kindred questions. A large number refused to meet repre- 
sentatives of enemy countries while the war lasted. Of those who 
were in favour of going to Stockholm, some wished only a con- 
sultative conference, while others wished its resolutions to be 
binding; some sought to have the question of the responsibility 
for the war put in the forefront ; some wished to meet enemy 
delegates only to indict them ; some were willing to postpone the 
indictment to the end, provided that the Conference decided on 
the question of guilt before it rose. On the mattereof policy, 
one section believed that if the Conference once sat the Germans 
would entangle it in barren discussions and split the Allied unity ; 
another section considered that any conference would lead to the 



10 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Aug. 

revelation and condemnation of German pretensions. The small 
pacificist section in France and Britain welcomed Stockholm as 
a step towards the realization of their desires, since in their view 
any peace was just, and all war unjust. 

While opinion was thus confused, Mr. Arthur Henderson 
returned from Petrograd. Originally he had been strongly opposed 
to the idea of Stockholm, but his stay in Russia had convinced 
him that something must be done to conciliate the extremists of 
the Soviets if Kerenski was to remain in power. He also held that 
a conference would result in an exposure of Germany which would 
strengthen the hands of the democracies opposing her. Mr. Hen- 
derson was one of the most trusted leaders of British Labour ; he 
had been unswerving in his support of the war, and he had first- 
hand experience of the Russian situation. His views were, there- 
fore, entitled to all respect. Unfortunately he forgot, as a mem- 
ber of the War Cabinet, what was due to his colleagues. The 
British Government had already declared 'explicitly against Stock- 
holm on any terms. Mr. Henderson accompanied the Russian 
delegates to Paris to discuss with the French Socialists the condi- 
tions on which they should go to Stockholm. The French majority 
and the Russians decided that any resolutions arrived at should be 
binding ; Mr. Henderson and his British colleagues insisted that the 
meeting should only be consultative. On loth August the special 
conference of the British Labour Party in London, by a majority of 
1,296,000 votes, declared that the invitation to Stockholm should 
be accepted, but only on condition that the conference was con- 
sultative and not mandatory. This resolution was obtained 
mainly by Mr. Henderson's influence ; and it was not easy to see 
its point, for it accepted a conference on terms which the Russians 
and the French majority had expressly declined. Next day Mr. 
Henderson resigned his seat in the War Cabinet, and was suc- 
ceeded by Mr. G. N. Barnes. 

There seemed much to be said at the time for Mr. Henderson's 
view of the tactical value of a conference, properly handled, to the 
Allied cause. Subsequent events were to make it plain that these 
arguments were not substantial. The German delegates did not 
mean business, and would have declined to be forced into the 
debating impasse which their enemies had intended for them ; 
while it was soon apparent that no conference on any terms could 
have seriously checked the rising tide of anarchy in Russia. More- 
over, Western socialism was not really in love with the project. 
It was preponderatingly national and patriotic, and only a small 



I9I7] THE GERMAN REFORM MOVEMENT ii 

minority hankered for the Internationale. Ten days after the first 
vote of the British Labour Party, a second congress saw the miners 
change front and the majority for Stockholm drop to a handful, 
while it refused the smaller socialist sections, which were the most 
keenly interested, the right of separate representation. On 4th 
September the Trades Union Congress at Blackpool, by a majority 
of nearly three millions, affirmed the necessity of an international 
labour conference as a preliminary to a lasting peace, but de- 
clared that any international conference at the present moment 
was undesirable. 

So much for the Stockholm card on which, in the spring and 
early summer, Germany had staked largely. It had failed, be- 
cause the ingenious politique had found himself faced by earnest 
and intransigent idealists who did not talk the same language. 
But it had produced certain curious reactions within Germany 
herself. In June Scheidemann was back in Berlin, expounding to 
his masters the situation as he had found it. He told his Gov- 
ernment that, if they wished to drive a wedge into the democracies 
opposed to them, they must undertake some spectacular measures 
of reform.* Other reasons were present to support this counsel. 
Unless German bureaucracy softened its voice, and spoke smooth 
things of liberty and peace, it would alienate its new and un- 
conscious allies, the Russian extremists, and so frustrate that 
primary object of German policy, the break-up of the Russian 
army and the decomposition of the Russian state. There was the 
trouble we have seen brewing with Austria, who, under her new 
monarch, seemed to be moving towards an inconsequent liberalism, 
and whose Foreign Minister did not cease to ingeminate peace. 
The Emperor Charles, too, had been engaging in secret overtures 
to France, in which he showed himself prepared to bargain with 
territory in German hands — overtures which, when disclosed a 
year later, did not endear him to the Berlin Court. Finally, in 
Germany itself there was a growing desire for reform. There 
had always been a sickly plant of that species, but during the 
first years of war it had shrivelled and died down. Now there had 
come reviving showers from the East. Even the orderly German 
populace could not be wholly insensitive to the amazing things 
which were astir beyond the Dvina. They had suffered and en- 
dured greatly ; they had been shorn, and had been dumb before 

* See his article in Vorwdrts, of 24th June, 1917 : "Germany, standing as 
she does safe to the four winds — Germany, who has not yielded to the strength 
of any conqueror, must grant her own reforms to her own people." 



12 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [July 

their shearers ; but they were beginning to find a voice. No 
sophistry could disguise the fact that they had an unduly small 
share in the government of their country, and it was unpleasant to 
be held up in a world of free men as the only slaves. The phe- 
nomenon was something far short of conversion. It was a stirring 
in sleep rather than an awakening. But the shrewd masters of 
Germany were not willing to risk an outbreak if a judicious anodyne 
could be administered, the more especially as the drug which was 
a soothing syrup at home might be made a fiery irritant for their 
foes. 

The need was intensified by the passionate general desire for 
peace, and a speedy peace. The discomfort of the land had be- 
come appalling. Arras and Messines had not been cheering, and 
the situation in Russia had not developed sufficiently to ease the 
strain. The submarine campaign, from which so much had been 
promised, had failed to give the expected results. German foreign 
policy, as shown by the rupture with America, and the bungling 
intrigues in Mexico and Switzerland, had been one long series of 
fiascoes. Moreover, forebodings as to the economic future after 
the war were drawing in like a dark cloud about the minds of the 
captains of industry and the trading classes, and the gloom was 
infecting the humbler folk who depended upon them for their 
livelihood. It was realized that the Russian formula of "peace 
without annexations" might be used to save German credit, and 
to secure her in her most vital gains from the war, while at the 
same time it would be in tune with the democratic jargon fashion- 
able among her opponents. Only a few hot-headed extremists 
seemed to stand between the German people and that peace which 
they so gravely needed. 

It was in the Reichstag itself that the storm broke. The great 
governing parties, apart from the Conservatives on the extreme 
right and the Minority Socialists on the extreme left, were the 
Catholic Centre, the National Liberals, the Radicals, and the 
Majority Socialists. In May, when the Imperial Chancellor had 
refused to state his peace terms, he had been supported by a hloc 
consisting of the Centre, the Radicals, and the National Liberals. 
Now the bloc suddenly added to itself the Majority Socialists, and 
so embraced two-thirds of the whole Reichstag, and, instead of 
supporting the Chancellor, it went into opposition. The immediate 
occasion was a speech delivered in the secret session on Friday, 
6th July, by Herr Erzberger, Count Czernin's confidant, the 
leader of the democratic wing of the Catholic Centre. He attacked 



I9I7] FALL OF BETHMANN-HOLLWEG 13 

the Government with great candour and vehemence, criticizing 
the conduct of the war and emphasizing the failure of the sub- 
marine. He demanded far-reaching reforms in both domestic 
and foreign poHcy, and a declaration in favour of peace without 
annexations or indemnities. 

The consequences were dramatic. The Chancellor attempted 
a reply, but failed to convince the House. The four Central parties 
formed a new hloc, pledged to demand reform of the Prussian 
constitution, parliamentary government throughout the Empire, 
and a declaration of war aims on the lines laid down by Erzberger. 
The Emperor hastened to Berlin, and Hindenburg and Ludendorff 
were summoned from General Headquarters. Th6 Crown Prince 
came also, for it was the Brandenburg fashion to summon the heir 
to any conference which concerned the future of the family estates. 
The first plan was to throw a sop to the malcontents by certain 
concessions as to Prussian reform. On Wednesday, nth July, 
the Emperor issued a decree expanding his Easter message, and 
making the suffrage for the Prussian Diet not only direct and 
secret, but also equal. The sop did not satisfy. The bloc remained 
in opposition, and continued to demand the introduction of par- 
liamentary government generally, and a resolution on war aims. 
For a week the Reichstag was thoroughly out of hand, and its 
disorder brought about Bethmann-Hollweg's fall. During that 
week his resignation was offered and accepted. The Emperor 
endeavoured to save him, but the military chiefs had decided 
that they could no longer work with him, and had themselves 
written out their resignations. 

It could not have been otherwise. He had failed to control 
the Reichstag, and his Imperial master must either get rid of him, 
or turn over the management of affairs to the parliamentary 
majority and become a constitutional sovereign. The Chan- 
cellor's sympathies were in the main with the malcontents, but he 
knew that he could never secure an assent to their demands from 
the ruling elements in the German State. He was left without 
friends. Himself a politique, he had tried to keep the balance 
between the party of reform and the party of reaction. His 
purpose was intelligent and honourable ; but, as so often happens 
to trimmers, he had alienated both sides. The conservatives and 
the Pan-Germans regarded him as a weakling, and the reformers 
looked upon him as a mere tool and hack. He belonged to no 
party, and therefore none took the trouble to defend him. He 
had not succeeded in his policy, for instead of being a trait d' union 



14 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [July 

between opposites, he had become the butt of both. He had 
committed the unpardonable sin in the eyes of his master, for he 
had failed to keep the peace among the talkers in the Reichstag, 
whom the bureaucracy were obliged to tolerate but could not 
love. The politique gets little justice when he fails. The anxious 
harassed, well-meaning, reasonably honest, and essentially mala- 
droit statesman who had fallen from power will in all likelihood 
fare better at the hands of future historians than he did with the 
journalists of his own age and country. It will be put to his credit 
that he saw further into the problem than most of his fellow- 
citizens ; that he sought honestly what he believed to be the wel- 
fare of his country ; and that he had a perception of facts denied 
to his showier rivals. The mere fact that an Imperial Chancellor 
should resign because of an uproar in the Reichstag was significant 
enough. His office was the keystone of the German constitution. 
Parliamentary combinations came and went, but the Chancellor 
remained. During the forty-six years of the German Empire's 
existence there had been only five chancellors. He was not a 
creature of the Reichstag; he came to it from above, from the 
Emperor's cabinet, to announce a policy and demand its assent. 
He was the mouthpiece of the Emperor, and if his hearers flouted 
him, they flouted the Imperial authority. 

For a brief week Germany trembled on the brink of consti- 
tutional government. The recalcitrant bloc had a majority, but 
it could not use it, for it had no adequate leaders. It squandered 
itself on barren intrigues and conferences, but it had one sensational 
triumph. On 19th July it carried by a majority of more than 
one hundred a motion on war aims. This celebrated resolution 
declared that the object of the war was solely to defend the liberty, 
independence, and territorial integrity of Germany ; that the 
Reichstag stood for peace and understanding between parties, and 
that annexations and political and economic oppression were con- 
trary to such a peace. This was a definite challenge to the Pan- 
Germans ; more, it was a denial of the ideals for which the German 
Government had explicitly undertaken the war. It made havoc 
of the "German Peace" based on a comprehensive "rectification" 
of frontiers and a wide economic hegemony, for which Tirpitz, 
Reventlow, and even the milder pedants of Mitteleuropa had ar- 
gued. It was in substance a condemnation of Germany's policy for 
the past half-century. 

But in the absence of leadership it was a mere pious opinion. 
The Emperor took no notice of it, and parliamentary government 



1917I MICHAELIS CHANCELLOR 15 

in Germany died as suddenly as it had been born. The Reichstag 
was not consulted in the appointment of the new Chancellor. 
Three names were presented to the Emperor by the military chiefs, 
and, though they hoped for Prince Biilow or Tirpitz, he chose 
the one which seemed to him to be the safest. This was a 
certain Dr. Georg Michaelis, an official sixty years old, who had 
done useful work in the Food Control Department. He was al- 
most unknown to the public, being one of those types bred by the 
German bureaucracy which rise to great executive power without 
ever coming into the limelight of public opinion. He was selected 
because he was docile and safe, and was believed to be a com- 
petent administrator. His political sympathies were known to be 
on the conservative side. The friendly press could only praise 
him in terms which augured ill for his success ; he was greeted as 
an "absolute Prussian, in whose veins runs the categorical im- 
perative." Helfferich, whose position had seemed precarious, was 
made Vice-Chancellor, and given the Ministry of the Interior, as 
well as the vice-presidency of the Prussian Ministry. Zimmer- 
mann, who had conspicuously failed at the Foreign Office, was 
succeeded by Baron von Kuhlmann,an urbane and adroit diplomat, 
a master of persuasive speech, and in policy far removed from the 
intransigence of the military school. He was to act as the velvet 
glove for the mailed fist. 

From the start the "absolute Prussian" was in trouble. He 
had to deal with the Reichstag resolution of 19th July, and the 
demand for parliamentary government. The latter subject he 
left untouched, and on the former he produced a masterpiece of 
equivocation. He professed to accept it, "as he understood it" ; 
but he added so many conditions and qualifications in his under- 
standing of it that it was obvious he meant to throw it over as 
soon as he felt himself sufficiently strong. The whole tenor of his 
first speech was reactionary', save that he did not insist upon the 
indemnities which Helfferich had been accustomed to proclaim. 
The worthy man was Indeed in a hopeless impasse. He could not 
speak pleasant things of a democracy in which he and his masters 
did not believe. He could orate on the merits of the submarine 
campaign, or the strength of the German front, or the breakdown 
of Brussllov's last offensive, but he was far too angular to play 
skilfully Kuhlmann's part of the good liberal and progressive facing 
a world of reactionary enemies. His courtesies towards the German 
I'eform party and the Russian extremists suggested the case of a 
respectable matron who, in order to save the credit of a favourite 



i6 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Aug. 

son, is compelled to be civil to a cocotte. He was soon outclassed 
by Kuhlmann, who was a born intriguer. The new Foreign 
Secretary let it be known that he intended to produce an "atmos- 
phere" favourable to negotiation — not for the sake of an honest 
peace, but in order to make strife among the Allies, and convince 
each that the other was in secret relations with the enemy. Apart 
from the folly of his preliminary announcement, he played his 
game with skill and unwearying industry. He harped cunningly 
on every pacificist string in Allied countries. He toiled to make 
Kerenski's position impossible, and to break up the last remnant 
of Russian order. He came to an understanding with Austria, so 
that Berlin and Vienna might speak with the same voice ; and he 
sheltered himself behind the latter in many of his intrigues, since a 
lingering friendliness towards Austria was still to be found among 
many to whom Germany was anathema. In every neutral country 
he had his agents busy staging the picture of the first of the world's 
military powers burning with zeal to take the lead of the world's 
democracies. 

Presently a pacific wind blew from another quarter. In a 
Note dated 1st August, but not published till the middle of the 
month, the Vatican invited the belligerent States to consider 
concrete proposals for peace. These were the diminution of 
armaments, the establishment of arbitration in international 
disputes, the " freedom of the seas," a general condonation as to 
the damage done by the war, a general restitution of occupied 
territory, and an examination in a friendly spirit of other territorial 
questions, such as Armenia, Poland, and the Balkans. There was 
much in the Note of sound sense and provident statesmanship, for, 
as the recent history of the world has proved, indemnities do not 
indemnify, and from no culprit can payment for the damage of 
war be extracted without a certain loss to the payee. But in the 
circumstances of the moment it was impossible that the Allies 
could see in this bloodless wisdom anything but evidence of a 
bias on behalf of the principal wrong-doer. The detached atti- 
tude towards atrocities perpetrated on Catholic countries and 
Catholic churches fell strangely on their ears. In effect it seemed 
to them that the Vatican asked for the restoration of the status 
quo ante helium, a settlement which three-fourths of Germany 
would have gladly welcomed, and which would have been wholly 
in German interests. Its sympathies — they thought — were with 
the old Catholic monarchies — with Austria, with Bavaria — and 
against the Western democracies. The bias was natural and could 



I9I71 THE VATICAN NOTE 17 

not be hidden, and its neutrality appeared to them Httle more than 
a diplomatic pose. The Vatican was, indeed, faced with a problem 
which one of the great thirteenth-century Pontiffs might have 
solved, but which was far beyond the capacity of a Benedict XV. 
To the Note Berlin, after taking some weeks to consider the ques- 
tion, responded with enthusiasm,* welcoming negotiations on the 
lines which the Pope had suggested, and professing that it had 
drawn the sword for no other purpose than to defend right against 
might. President Wilson, on behalf of the Allies, issued a reply 
which went to the heart of the matter. " It is manifest," he wrote, 
"that no part of this programme can be successfully carried out un- 
less the restitution of the status quo ante furnishes a firm and satis- 
factory basis for it. The object of this war is to deliver the free, 
peoples of the world from the menace and the actual power of a vast 
military establishment controlled by an irresponsible Government 
which, having secretly planned to dominate the world, proceeded to 
carry the plan out without regard either to the sacred obligations of 
treaty or the long-established practice and long-cherished principles 
of international action and honour ; which chose its own time for 
the war ; delivered its blow fiercely and suddenly ; stopped at 
no barrier of law or of mercy ; swept a whole continent within the 
tide of blood — not the blood of soldiers only, but the blood of 
innocent women and children also, and of the helpless poor ; and 
now stands balked but not defeated, the enemy of four-fifths of 
the world. This Power is not the German people. It is the ruth- 
less master of the German people. It is no business of ours how 
that great people came under its control or submitted to its tem- 
porary zest, to the domination of its purpose ; but it is our business 
to see to it that the rest of the world is no longer left to its handling. 
To deal with such a Power by way of peace upon the plan proposed 
by his Holiness the Pope would, so far as we can see, involve a 
recuperation of its strength and a renewal of its policy ; would 
make it necessary to create a permanent hostile combination of 
the nations against the German people, who are its instruments." 
During August and September Michaelis passed from blunder 
to blunder, while Kuhlmann was busy with his hints and overtures. 
The latter had many difficulties to encounter. The follies of Count 
Luxburg in the Argentine and the futile German conspiracies in 
Mexico and elsewhere, which the Government of Washington 
periodically revealed, were not calculated to exalt the repute 

*_The enthusiasm did not extend to General Headquarters. LudendorfE 
objected to the Note, and disapproved of the German reply. 



i8 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

of German honour. Moreover, the civilian statesman was always 
in opposition to the military chiefs, who not only were intransigent 
in their war aims, but had an awkward habit of blurting out truths 
which wrecked the laborious camouflage of the Foreign Minister. 
It was hard to work cunningly on the psychology of enemy peoples 
when at any moment a heavy-footed soldier might scatter the web. 
It was hard to labour for a German victory through peace, when 
simpler souls could only think of peace through a German victory. 
Nor must it be forgotten that the soldier ranked far higher in 
popular esteem than the politician. The territorial commands 
in Germany were indeed excessively unpopular, but not so General 
Headquarters. The latter might be anti-democratic and unbend- 
ing, but it had clean hands, and maintained the old tradition of the 
incorruptible German public servant. Muddling and corruption 
in civil administration, and scandalous war-profiteering, had caused 
the ordinary politician to stink in the nostrils of the country. Few 
honest Germans, whether socialist or not, could prefer the person- 
alities of Kuhlmann, Erzberger, and Scheidemann to those of 
Ludendorff and Hindenburg. 

Throughout these months there were so many forces at work 
within Germany that a clear distincti'on was impossible. Kuhl- 
mann continued to make an "atmosphere" by hinting at the 
evacuation and restoration of Belgium on easy terms. The des- 
perate economic condition of Austria moved opinion towards 
peace, and the growing demoralization of Russia swung it back 
towards war. Indeed, we may say that the spectacle of the col- 
lapse of all government in Russia was the most potent weapon to 
weaken the reform movement in Germany, and to content the people 
with their traditional system. Propaganda was officially conducted 
everywhere, even among the troops at the fronts, in favour of a 
"German" peace by victory as against a "Scheidemann" peace 
by negotiations, and a new book, Freytag-Loringhoven's De- 
ductions from the World War, preached the straitest doctrines of 
German militarism as the only hope of the future. The export of 
this work abroad was prohibited, as inimical to Kuhlmann's peace 
"atmosphere" ; but its circulation was officially promoted within 
Germany itself, and it had undoubtedly a high propaganda value. 
Even those who did not subscribe to the doctrines of the Deputy 
Chief of the General Staff had some sympathy with the maxim 
which von der Goltz used to quote with approval — " the Roman 
principle never to conclude peace in times of disaster." Though 
they had abandoned the extreme hopes of the first months of war, 



iQiy] MICHAELIS RESIGNS 19 

they were clear that Germany had been the victor in the struggle, 
and that she must emerge not only without loss but with some 
positive gain. This was the general temper of the German people, 
and it hardened as Russia went deeper into the mire, and the 
attack of the Allies in the West failed to accomplish its purpose. 
The resolution of 19th July was becoming forgotten, and the 
peace visions of midsummer were fading out of the air. It 
needed only some striking success in the field to range the great 
bulk of public opinion on the side of the military chiefs. 

When the Reichstag met in October it was in an electric 
atmosphere. There had been grave disorders, amounting to mutiny, 
in the Fleet. The militarist propaganda, encouraged by the Gov- 
ernment, seemed a defiance of the Reichstag majority, and a 
turning to ridicule of the resolution of 19th July. Moreover, the 
pacific speeches of Kuhlmann and Czernin had not qnly unsettled 
the weaker minds among the Allied peoples, but had left the or- 
dinary German moderate in a very complete confusion of his own. 
On Saturday, 6th October, the Majority Socialists introduced an 
interpellation on the subject of the Pan-German propaganda 
encouraged by the authorities. General von Stein, the Minister 
of War, replied by pooh-poohing the whole aflfair. He was badly 
received, and was followed by Helfferich, who was shouted down. 
Upon this the Reichstag, thoroughly dissatisfied, took the bold 
step on 8th October of referring back to the Committee the new 
war vote of 300 millions. That day Michaelis himself addressed 
the Main Committee, and Helfferich made a kind of apology. 
Next day, 9th October, the situation grew worse, when the Inde- 
pendent Socialist, Herr Dittmann, referred to the naval mutiny, 
and accused the Government of treating the sailors unjustly. 
Michaelis replied by declaring that officials might belong to any 
party they liked, but that he personally considered the Independent 
Socialists outside the pale of patriotic parties. He was succeeded 
by Admiral von Capelle, who read a speech apparently composed 
with the help of the Chancellor, in which he declared that he had 
documentary evidence in his possession which showed that the 
chief instigator of the mutiny had worked in collaboration with 
Independent Socialists like Dittmann and Haase. An angry 
debate ensued, in which the Government were attacked for their 
use of the court-martial evidence, without allowing the incrimi- 
nated members of the House to hear it beforehand or to examine 
the witnesses. The Chancellor at first associated himself with 
the charge made by Capelle ; but a few days later he made 



20 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

matters worse by asking for Capelle's resignation, as if he were 
trying to escape by throwing the blame on a subordinate. The 
Reichstag passed the votes, and adjourned till December, but it 
was clear that Michaelis could not meet the House again. 

On the 2 1st the Emperor returned to Berlin after paying visits 
to his friends the monarchs of Bulgaria and Turkey. He had to 
find a new Chancellor ; and the choice was not easy, for he must 
have a man who could manage the Reichstag and at the same time 
be acceptable to General Headquarters. His choice ultimately 
fell on Count Georg von Herding, a Bavarian of seventy-four, who 
had spent most of his life as a professor in the University of Bonn, 
and had been leader of the Centre in the Reichstag till he quarrelled 
with Bethmann-Hollweg over the Jesuits. He was a devout 
Catholic, a profound student of St. Augustine, and a skilful parlia- 
mentarian, whose private creed was anti-parliamentary. It 
seemed incredible that such a man should be acceptable to the 
Socialists and Liberals — or to Prussia at large, for the office 
of Chancellor carried with it the appointment of Prussian 
Minister President. To avoid future trouble it was desirable to 
make certain of a working majority in the Reichstag, so the Chan- 
cellor-designate went round cap in hand to the different parties 
soliciting their support. For a week or two he met with no success, 
and it seemed as if he must return to Munich ; but the adroit 
Kuhlmann took up the task, and devised a formula on which all 
the party leaders, except the Socialists, could agree. So it came 
about that on 31st October an elderly Bavarian ultramontane 
became Chancellor of the Empire and Minister President of Prussia. 
The curious noted that this befell on the four hundredth anni- 
versary of the day on which Martin Luther had nailed his theses 
to the church door of Wittenberg. 

The appointment, though it seemed at first sight paradoxical, 
was shrewdly calculated. Count Hertling had affinities with all 
the governing parties, and was identified with none. Conservatives 
were inclined to accept one who had always been a conservative ; 
Liberals looked with a certain friendliness on a man who had risen 
into repute as a parliamentarian, and had accepted the resolution 
of 19th July. The truth was that his coming meant the rout of 
the reformers. Much was made in foreign countries of the fact 
that he had not been appointed till the assent of the Reichstag 
majority was assured, and this was hailed as a triumph of con- 
stitutionalism. But to argue thus was to misread the situation. 
The consultation of the politicians was only a device to prevent 



1917] COUNT HERTLING 21 

the trouble from which Michael is had suffered. It was a 
private arrangement, and the unshaken power of the autocracy 
was proved by the fact that such a figure could be forced on the 
country at all. The thing was possible only because the discon- 
tents of the summer had been decisively quelled. The stirrings 
of reform, the aspirations towards peace, still existed, but they were 
diffuse, impotent, and voiceless. Russia's descent to chaos had 
suddenly become accelerated ; and during October the Austro- 
German armies had won a great victory in Italy, and were sweep- 
ing towards the Po. At the news every section, except the 
Minority Socialists, became converted to a "German" peace. 
The press and the politicians, who had been coquetting with 
negotiations and making eyes at democracy, cried as loudly for 
conquest as they had done in 1914. Ephraim was once more 
joined to his idols, and revealed himself as wholly impenitent and 
unchanged. The smooth speeches of Kuhlmann could scarcely 
be heard for the din of his exultant countrymen behind him. 



CHAPTER LXXXIV 

THE SUMMER AT VERDUN AND ON THE AISNE 

June 2rNovember 2, 191 7 

P6tain's Policy — The Summer Fighting on the Aisne — The French Fourth 
Army at Moronvillers — Guillaumat's Advance at Verdun — The Aisne 
Heights cleared. 

Before the great sallies from the enemy fortress began in East 
and West, there was to be, besides the 'long struggle in Flanders, 
one last attack of the besiegers. We left the French armies when 
in the first days of June they had won the main position of the 
Chemin des Dames, and had driven the enemy from his observa- 
tion posts on the Aisne heights, while they themselves were looking 
down into the vale of the Ailette, and east of Rheims held the 
whole summit-ridge of the Moronvillers massif. The story of the 
summer which followed is one of fierce and persistent German 
attacks to win back the lost ground. The enemy's motives were 
partly defensive, for even the modified success of the French on 
the Aisne endangered the left flank of the Siegfried Line ; partly 
the desire to restore the waning credit of the Imperial Crown 
Prince by something which could be called a victory ; and partly 
to keep up the moral of his troops by an offensive in a safe area, 
since elsewhere on the long front they were being remorselessly 
driven backward by Haig. The Second Battle of the Aisne fin- 
ished, so far as the main operations were concerned, with the 
capture of the California Plateau on 5th May ; but it was destined 
to drag out with much sharp and costly fighting for another hun- 
dred days. 

The first task of Petain was to hold what he had won, but a 

second project was occupying his thoughts. His urgent duty 

.was to nurse back to assurance and cheerfulness the sorely tried 



1917] SUMMER ON THE AISNE HEIGHTS 23 

armies of France. Hence very slowly and carefully he planned 
an assault, when his men should have recovered confidence after 
their successful defence and be eager for the revanche. ^ He chose 
Verdun, where France fought always with a special pride, and he 
chose the one section of the Aisne heights to which the enemy still 
clung. The battle of France during the summer and autumn of 
1917 fell, therefore, into two stages — a long period of "stone- 
walling" against the German counter-strokes, and two small, 
short, perfectly staged, and victorious offensives. 

From 3rd June to 20th June there was a lull on the Aisne. 
Four points in the French position were marked out for enemy 
attacks — the extreme left north of Vauxaillon, where the line 
approached the Ailette ; the Malmaison sector, where the enemy 
held a strong position on the northern rim of the tableland ; the 
narrows of the hog's back at Hurtebise; and the plateaux of 
Vauclerc and California forming the butt of the range above 
Craonne. On 20th June the first point, between the Ailette and 
Laffaux Mill, was hotly attacked by "shock" troops and the first 
positions taken, but by the next evening the French had recovered 
the ground. On 25th June it was the turn of the French to strike. 
The spur north of Hurtebise, called the Hurtebise Finger, was held 
by the enemy, and it commanded from the west the Vauclerc 
plateau. The spur was honeycombed by the great limestone 
grotto known as the Dragon's Cave. The southern entrance had 
been closed by a shell explosion, but the north entrance and the 
cavern itself were in German hands. To win the Finger not only 
the crest above ground but the grotto beneath must be captured, 
for otherwise the enemy might have blown up the whole spur. 
After a hard struggle, during the day of 25th June, the spur was 
carried, the northern outlet of the cave seized, and a thousand 
prisoners taken. 

In the last days of June the Germans attacked in the Hurtebise 
area, and from Corbeny against the eastern bluff of the heights. 
On 3rd July came the first of the Crown Prince's more serious 
efforts. The VII. Army under von Boehn launched an attack on a 
twelve-mile front, from Malmaison to the woods of Chevreux, 
north of Craonne. After an artillery bombardment of only half 
an hour the "shock" troops advanced at eight in the morning, 
followed by some six infantry divisions. Their aim was the whole 
length of the hog's back held by the French from east of Malmaison 
to California. But the French were not to be taken unawares. 
Their barrage caught the first wave of the attack in the open, and 



24 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [July 

after a long day's fighting the enemy was driven off the plateau. 
On this occasion the Germans were advancing from the low ground 
in the Ailette valley, so Boehn's next attempt was from Malmaison, 
where he held a strong position on the plateau itself. Here the 
French front ran into a salient, and the enemy's aim was to cut it 
off and drive the French off all that section of the heights. At 
3.45 a.m. on the morning of 8th July the German infantry advanced 
as soon as their guns opened fire. Wave after wave followed during 
the day, and far into the night ; but they gained nothing, except 
on the Chevregny spur, where for twenty-four hours they secured a 
mile or so of the French front trenches. These were won back on 
the morning of the 9th, and for his heavy losses Boehn had nothing 
to show. 

On 19th July a division of the Prussian Guard made another 
attempt to storm the plateaux of Vauclerc, the Casemates, and 
California, between Hurtebise and Craonne. It was the most 
serious of the enemy's strokes, for, if these positions were lost, 
the French, their left threatened by the enemy at Malmaison, 
would be driven off the crest of the ridge back to the Aisne valley. 
On the six-mile front more than 300 German guns were concen- 
trated. The enemy troops had to force the northern slopes of 
the hills, where the French barrage dealt death among them; 
while the French troops on the little plateaux, each of which was 
about a third of a mile broad, were the targets for the German bom- 
bardment. The battle began at midday on the 19th, and five regi- 
ments of the Prussian Guard managed to reach the edge of the 
tableland. They were flung back, but continued to hold half a 
mile of the French position between the Casemates and California. 
The attack in the same area was renewed later in the evening, 
and next day a subsidiary attack was launched to the west between 
Malmaison and Hurtebise. On the 22nd the Prussian Guard, now 
reinforced by a reserve and a Bavarian division, advanced anew 
against the plateaux, and won a precarious foothold at California. 
On the 23rd there was no infantry fighting, but a desperate bom- 
bardment from both sides ; and on the 24th the defence swept 
the enemy off the California ground. That same day a strong 
assault in the Hurtebise sector was also repelled, an assault which 
was repeated fruitlessly every day till the 29th. The close of 
July saw the end of the German effort. 

The attempt to restore the credit of the heir to the German 
throne had been singularly unsuccessful. From 5th May onward 
till the discontinuance of the action the Germans on this limited 



191 7] GOURAUD AT MORONVILLERS 25 

front had flung in no less than forty-nine divisions.* They had 
gained no ground, and they had lost heavily, especially among 
their picked Sturmtruppen. German tactics were in a state of 
transition, both for offence and defence, and the Aisne discredited 
the first crude use of "shock" battalions, as the later stages of 
Third Ypres discredited the "pill-box" and Armin's method of 
a retired front. But the main result of the battle was the new 
confidence which it inspired in the armies of France. They had 
endured against odds and yielded nothing, and their temper was 
becoming set for an offensive. 

During these months the Fourth Army at Moronvillers was 
engaged in various small but successful operations. On 9th June 
Anthoine, departing to the First Army in Flanders, yielded his 
command to Gouraud, who in the Argonne and in Gallipoli had 
won fame as a leader of men. The new general was not satisfied 
with his front, especially between Mont Cornillet and Mont Blond ; 
for though he held the two summits, the enemy had the Flensburg 
trench on the saddle between, and awkward positions on the 
northern slopes of Mont Blond which might form a starting-point 
for a new offensive. It was Gouraud's wish to cut off this salient, 
and he entrusted the work to the French 132nd Division. The 
task was to be undertaken after careful reconnaissance by selected 
parties of bombers. These started just before dawn on 21st June. 
The Germans were expecting an attack, and had strengthened 
their posts in the Flensburg trench and put down a heavy barrage. 
The operation was completely successful ; the Flensburg and Blond 
trenches were won, and the enemy had lost all chance of observa- 
tion over the southern slopes of the Moronvillers range, except for 
two positions, one on the saddle between Mont Blond and Mont 
Haut, and one on the western side of the latter hill. 

Fritz von Below now brought up three fresh divisions with the 
intention of regaining the crest line. But Gouraud anticipated 
his plans. On 12th and 13th July the French guns deluged with 
shells the position of the new divisions. On 14th July — the jour 
de France, which had been celebrated the year before on the Somme 
by the capture of the German second line — Gouraud attacked at 
7.30 in the evening, on two fronts of 800 and 600 yards, with the 
purpose of clearing the saddle between Mont Blond and Mont 
Haut and extending the French hold on the Teton. Within half 

* During, approximately, the same period in 1916 the enemy used only 
twenty-five divisions on the rather narrower Verdun front. The changed cir- 
cumstances in the East enabled him to be more lavi^ in his use of troops. 



26 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [July 

an hour he had secured all his objectives and taken some hundreds 
of prisoners. Violent counter-attacks followed, and during the 
night the saddle changed hands for an hour or two, but on the 
Teton the Germans made no progress. On the night of the 22nd 
the enemy attacked the French lines north-west of Mont Cornillet, 
on the 25th the whole front on Mont Haut, and on the 26th he 
made no less than five separate assaults. By the end of the month 
he had given up the task, and the Moronvillers area had become a 
French fortress defending the plain of Chalons and threatening 
the flank of the German position in Champagne. Petain was now 
free to turn his mind to his offensive elsewhere. 

The Verdun area was held by the French Second Army, under 
General Guillaumat, who had commanded with distinction the 
1st Corps at the Battle of the Somme ; the enemy force was the 
V. Army, under Gallwitz. When the great Battle of Verdun 
died away in July 191 6, the French line from left to right covered 
the village of Avocourt and Avocourt Redoubt, the southern 
slope of Mort Homme and Hill 304, Charny, Bras, the Froideterre 
ridge, a part of Fleury, Forts Souville and Tavannes, and so to 
the Woevre. Nivelle's winter battles retook Douaumont and 
Vaux, Vacherauville, Poivre Hill, Louvemont, Bezonvaux, and 
Hardaumont, restoring the French front to its position on Febru- 
ary 24, 1916, the fourth day of the battle. It was not the old 
position which Sarrail had prepared in the great retreat, and it 
had obvious weak points. Any German movement in this sector 
must, therefore, be jealously watched. 

In June Gallwitz began to show signs of activity. Reconnoi- 
tring attacks were delivered on the left bank of the Meuse, and, 
to cloak this movement, feints were made in the south at Les 
Eparges and the St. Mihiel salient. Meantime 500 guns were 
massed behind the Avocourt-Cumieres sector, where the French 
line ran through the south-eastern corner of Avocourt Wood across 
the Esnes-Malancourt road and along the south skirts of Hill 304 
and Mort Homme to the river north of Chattancourt. The Esnes 
highway crossed the ridge by a little hollow, the Col de Pommeri- 
eux, which, if won by the enemy, would enable him to outflank the 
French lines on Hill 304. The German loth Reserve Division 
was allotted for the attack, and trained behind the front on an 
exact model of the country. Of this Guillaumat was advised by 
a curious chance. A French airman, flying behind the lines, saw 
a set of trenches which he recognized as identical with those on 



GUILLAUMAT'S ADVANCE AT VERDUN. 

(Fating p. 




*'hi 



y \ 



n. 







ia^JAVg-. 8'IA: 



I9I7] GUILLAUMAT'S ADVANCE 27 

Hill 304. Gallwitz launched his attack on the afternoon of 28th 
June on a front of 2,000 yards. His "shock" troops carried the 
front trenches and won to the Col de Pommerieux. A French 
battalion in the Avocourt Wood repelled ten assaults and held 
their ground for twelve hours, till every survivor was wounded 
and the order came to withdraw. All next day the battle lasted, 
both east and west of Hill 304, and there were many marvellous 
cases of the tenacity of small units. A squadron of forty dis- 
mounted Breton dragoons, for example, between Hill 304 and 
Mort Homme, beat off several companies of "shock" troops, and 
held the Germans in this sector, more than half being killed or 
wounded. West of Hill 304 the enemy had gained some ground, 
and on the 30th and the succeeding days he made a great effort 
to debouch from his new positions. The fighting was bitter and 
long on the slopes and in Avocourt Wood, but by the 6th of July 
the German assault had lost its vigour and ebbed away. 

On the night of 7th July Guillaumat began his counter-offen- 
sive. That night by a brilliant little action he cleared away three 
enemy salients on Mort Homme and Hill 304. The weather was 
bad, and not till the 17th was Lebocq, the General commanding 
in the sector, ready for a larger operation. The German forces 
had suffered severely under the French bombardment. The loth 
Reserve Division had been strengthened by elements of the 48th, 
newly arrived from Russia, and the 29th was in process of reliev- 
ing it when Lebocq struck. At 6.15 on the morning of that day, 
after an exceptionally heavy artillery preparation, the French 
51st and 87th regiments, with three other battalions in support, 
attacked from Avocourt Wood to Mort Homme. They retook 
the Col de Pommerieux, and in half an hour had advanced half a 
mile and gained all their objectives with few casualties. The old 
line had been recaptured, and though during the rest of the month 
there were small counter-attacks at various points from Les 
Eparges to Avocourt, it was never in serious danger. 

All this was preparatory to the major offensive of August, 
upon which Petain had decided as one of his two autumn battles. 
His aim was to restore the French front which had existed before 
the Crown Prince, on the morning of February 21, 191 6, began 
the Battle of Verdun. The enemy was aware that a great attack 
was in contemplation, and he guessed that its chief area would be 
the left bank of the Meuse. On 17th August the divisions de- 
fending Mort Homme and Hill 304 were warned that they must 
expect to be attacked at any moment, and that they must depend 



28 A HISTORY OF^.THE GREAT WAR [Aug. 

on their own resources. Their position was very strong, and they 
relied upon the great tunnels cut in the ridges for cover from the 
French bombardment, and upon the counter-bombardment of their 
new mustard-gas shells to check the advancing infantry. Gall- 
witz was prepared to fight as Armin was fighting at Ypres — hold- 
ing his front line lightly, and waiting the chance of a counter-stroke 
while his assailants were still uncertain in their new positions. 

Guillaumat surprised his opponents by many things, but mainly 
by the length of his front of assault. Not on the left bank of the 
river only, but on the whole fifteen miles from Avocourt Wood to 
the north of Bezonvaux, he made ready for an attack. On the 
right the advance was intended to be short, for at Bezonvaux his 
front made a sharp angle and he could not risk a counter-stroke 
from the Woevre. From Friday, 17th August, the French guns 
never ceased, and the bald bleached tops of Mort Homme and Hill 
304 became balder and more skeleton-like. On the evening of 
Sunday, the 19th, the whole landscape was a vast smoking altar. 
It was hot, dry weather, the dust lay inches deep on the roads, and 
the sky was shrouded in a fog of fumes and debris. Just before 
dawn on the morning of Monday, the 20th, the French infantry 
moved forward on the whole front. They found that the guns had 
done their work for them. Stores of the enemy's gas shells had 
been exploded by the French bombardment, and in one division 
three whole regiments had been put out of action. Almost at a 
bound the French cleared Avocourt Wood, seized the two sum- 
mits of Mort Homme, where in the spring of 1916 so much blood 
had been spilled, carried the Wood of Cumieres, and, pouring over 
the crest, occupied the Crows' Wood, which they had lost sixteen 
months before. East of the river the same division which in De- 
cember 1916, under Muteau, had stormed the Cotedu Foivre had 
now the task of clearing the Talou ridge and the loop of the Meuse 
towards Samogneux. Forcing its way through clouds of German 
gas it took Talou, and Champneuville beyond it. Farther to the 
right the French carried Hill 344 (lost on February 24, 1916), 
Mormont Farm, and Hill 240, north of Louvemont. The extreme 
right wing advanced some distance in the two woods of Fosses 
and Chaume. Gallwitz's counter-strokes missed their mark. He 
launched them at Avocourt Wood, at the Mort Homme, and at 
Hill 344 ; but the speed and fury of the French had demoralized 
the defence, and they came to nothing. Over 4,000 unwounded 
prisoners remained in Guillaumat's hands. 

The position now was that the French encircled Hill 304 and 



I9I7] THE SUCCESS AT VERDUN 29 

had won the main part of the ridge called the Goose's Crest, be- 
tween the Forges brook and the Meuse, while on the right bank 
they had cut off the river loop. On Tuesday, the 21st, the east 
end of the Cote de I'Oie was taken and the village of Regn6ville 
beyond it, while the front east of the river was brought into line 
by the capture of Samogneux and the whole northern slope of Hill 
344. Gallwitz was thoroughly shaken. His counter-attacks all 
along the new front were beaten off with a contemptuous ease ; 
and by Thursday evening the French centre had pressed well to 
the north of Mormont Farm, and the toll of captures had risen to 
7,640 men and 24 guns. On Friday Hill 304 and the Bois Camard 
fell to a single rush, and the French left reached the southern bank 
of the Forges brook, between Haucourt and Bethincourt — an 
advance of some 2,000 yards. On Saturday, the 25th, fresh prog- 
ress was made in this area ; and on the Sunday, east of the river, 
the woods of Fosses and Beaumont were taken, and the skirts of 
the village of Beaumont reached. A German counter-attack, 
debouching from Wavrille Wood, was destroyed by the French 
artillery. On Monday, the 27th, there was fierce fighting around 
Beaumont, and with it the main action for the moment died down. 
Guillaumat had won practically all his objectives, and had a total 
of some 10,000 prisoners. 

There was quiet for nearly a fortnight, and then on Saturday, 
8th September, the French pushed forward north of the Fosses 
Wood, took the whole of the Chaume Wood, and secured the high 
ground which commanded the Wood of Caures. Next day the 
enemy counter-attacked furiously but without results, both there 
and north of Hill 344. Guillaumat had now secured what he 
desired. The enemy had been pushed far away from Verdun 
almost to the line from which he had moved on the first day of the 
great battles, and all the armies of France had been quickened to 
a new eagerness and hope by her success on this classic fighting 
ground. 

The omens were thus happy for Petain's second autumn battle. 
He chose that part of the Heights of the Aisne where the enemy 
still had a foothold, the western end of the Chemin des Dames be- 
tween Allemant and Malmaison. The Second Battle of the Aisne 
in the spring had given the French the crown of the ridge, but only 
east of Hurtebise did they hold the northern rim. In all the 
western sector the Germans had a foothold on the plateau, and 
the French front ran practically in a straight line from Laffaux to 



30 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

Hurtebise. Both sides had narrow standing room, both had a 
river behind them, and both operated from the same kind of base 
— a series of spurs splayed Hke the fingers of a hand, running on 
the German side to the vale of the Ailette, and on the French side 
to the Aisne. The villages behind the German lines were on the 
reverse slopes or on the flat. Petain's aim was to clear the enemy 
wholly off the heights and to advance to the Ailette bank. He 
chose the triangle between the Aisne-Oise Canal and Soissons for 
his attempt, arguing rightly that if he could press back the enemy 
to the flats in this area he would compel a general retirement. 
The French forces were the Sixth Army, formerly under Mangin, 
and now under Maistre, who had once commanded the 2ist Corps 
at Verdun. There were four corps in the army — the nth, 14th, 
39th, and Maistre's old 21st, now under that Degoutte whom we 
saw in command of the Moroccan Division at Moronvillers. 
Seven French divisions were allotted to the assault — the 13th, 
27th, 28th, 38th, 43rd, 66th, and 67th. Opposed to Maistre was 
Boehn's German VH. Army. In the battle area the 2nd and 5th 
Divisions of the Prussian Guard were disposed around Fort Mal- 
maison ; on the right the 13th, on the left the 47th Reserve, and 
in support the 14th and the 211th. 

Like Nivelle at Verdun and Plumer at Messines, Maistre staged 
his battle cunningly and with the minutest care. His initial front 
was four miles long — from Laffaux Mill to La Royere farm. The 
preliminary bombardment began on Wednesday, 17th October, 
and was directed mainly to breaking up the roofs and sealing up 
the entrances of the underground caverns which constituted one 
of the main German defences. Mont Parnasse, behind Mal- 
maison, one of the biggest quarries, had been shattered by 16-inch 
shells several days before the attack. On the night of Monday, 
22nd October, the bombardment increased in fury, and in the 
drizzle before dawn on the 23rd it rose to a terrific crescendo. At 
5.15, in fog and rain, the French infantry crossed their parapets. 

Their success was immediate and unbroken. The first rush 
brought them to a line from Le Fruty, on the Laffaux-Chavignon 
road, to the quarries of Bohery. The next bound gave their centre 
the Fort of Malmaison. It would appear that, as happened on 
two occasions during Third Ypres, the French attack anticipated 
a German move by a quarter of an hour, and therefore caught the 
enemy in some confusion. There was stiff fighting in the Mont 
Parnasse quarry, where a German reserve division came up ; but 
presently the French centre was descending the northern slopes 



THE MALMAISON ACTION. 

(Facing p. jo.) 







ipifef^* 11 



-OA V108IAM.JA.M'3HT 



% 



s\i'. 






1917] MALMAISON 31 

of the heights and had taken the village of Chavignon. The place 
was of extreme importance, for it gave a clear view to Laon along 
the little valley of the Ardon, and the slopes above it commanded 
all the eastern course of the Ailette. Meantime the French left 
had taken the villages of Allemant and Vaudesson, and the right 
was on the crest overlooking Pargny and Filain. It was a victo- 
rious day. On a four-mile front an advance of two and a quarter 
miles had been made ; and some 8,000 prisoners and many guns 
had been taken. The enemy was left in a position in which he 
could not hope to abide. 

During the next three days Maistre swept on. He had not 
attacked the Mont des Singes, the spur which was the buttress of 
the German right, but he judged rightly that ifmust soon be evacu- 
ated. The French entered Pargny and Filain ; they took Pinon 
in the flats, and pushed through the Pinon forest to the edge of 
the Aisne-Oise Canal. Presently the two armies faced each other 
across the marshy valley bottom. The enemy was in sore straits, 
for the new French positions commanded the flank of the Forest 
of Coucy and enfiladed his remaining front on the slopes of the 
Aisne hills east of Filain. On Friday, 2nd November, Boehn fell 
back altogether from the hills, beyond the Ailette and the canal, 
and the French entered Courtegon, Cerny-en-Laonnois, Allies, 
and Chevreux, the villages which had seen the fiercest of the mid- 
summer fighting. Eleven thousand prisoners had been taken 
and over 200 guns. After a six months' battle the Heights of the 
Aisne, on which the enemy had for three years been entrenched, 
were now again in the hands of France. 



CHAPTER LXXXV 

THE DOWNFALL OF RUSSIA 

July 22rNovemher 7, 191 7 

End of Brussilov's Offensive — Komilov appointed Commander-in-Chief — The 
Valour of Rumania — The Moscow Conference — Hutier takes Riga — 
Kerenski and Komilov — The Bolsheviks make ready — Fall of Kerenski 
Government — Lenin and Trotski in Power. 

On 23rd July the Germans were in Tarnopol, the Russian Eleventh 
Army had gone to pieces, the Seventh and Eighth Armies were in 
retreat, and the whole Galician front had crumbled. It was not 
a military defeat, for the enemy had no great weight of numbers. 
It was not a breakdown from sheer physical exhaustion, for Russia 
as a whole had not suffered to the degree of France or Germany. 
It was the collapse of the spirit of a nation, a tragedy which no 
glozing phrases could conceal. Let us grant that the old Russia 
had been misgoverned ; that, like the Sullan regime at Rome, she 
had been less a constitution or an empire than a gigantic system 
of police ; that her national integration and self-consciousness 
were weak ; and that the Revolution proclaimed many unexcep- 
tionable doctrines of autonomy and liberty and social reform. 
Unfortunately, the soul of a man or of a people is not saved by 
liberal professions. There is virtue in fighting for a narrow cause 
if the fighter translates it into his own homely loyalties, and is 
willing to undergo discipline and sacrifice and death for Its sake ; 
there is none in huzzaing for a generous creed and in practice 
surrendering honour and self-control for self-interest and easy 
dreams. There had been a true brotherhood in the old armies 
of the Tsar ; there was little, save of the lips, in the mob that 
straggled back to the frontiers. Morally, the Russia of the Revo- 
lution, in spite of lofty declarations, was far below the community 
which it had destroyed. Steel and lire had given place to putty 

32 



1917] THE LAST RUSSIAN RETREAT 33 

and packthread, and the new vision, which should have been a 
spur to effort, had become a facile plea for irresolution. That 
something soft and boneless, oriental and apathetic, which was 
the flaw in the Russian character was now acclaimed as virtue. 

The tale of the fate of Brussilov's armies is soon told. Kor- 
nilov was put in charge of the south-western front in place of 
Gutor, and he flung all his volcanic energy into the vain task of 
reconstruction. He had to check the retreat of the Eleventh and 
Seventh Armies, and disengage his own Eighth Army (now under 
Tcheremisov) from the awkward position south of the Dniester 
in which it had been placed by the defection in the north. Halicz 
and Stanislau were at once evacuated, the Sereth was crossed by 
Bothmer south of Tarnopol, and on the 24th the enemy was close 
on Trembovla and Buczacz. The German Emperor had arrived 
at the front to witness the easy triumph of order over revolution. 
The aim of the Austro-German Command was to push rapidly 
north of the Dniester so as to cut off the Russian forces in the 
Carpathians and the Bukovina. On 27th July the Eighth Army 
was on the line Kolomea-Zaleshchyki ; on the last day of the 
month it was twenty miles farther back on the line Kuty-Sniatyn- 
Mielnica. By that date the Seventh and Eleventh Armies had 
been pushed beyond the river Zbrucz, which was the frontier of 
Russia. In places there were gallant stands against odds by 
various brigades, and the left of the Seventh Army fought stub- 
bornly on the lower Sereth. The performance, too, of the British 
armoured cars in fighting unsupported delaying actions cannot 
be overpraised. But no isolated heroism could atone for the 
complete breakdown of the fighting machine. Erdeli, command- 
ing the Eleventh Army, was murdered by a shot in the back from 
his own men, and Czernovitz and Kimpolung had fallen by the 
beginning of August. Kornilov was now standing desperately on 
his own frontier, barring the road to Odessa. 

There was no reason why Prince Leopold should not have 
reached Odessa had the German High Command so desired. They 
had been fighting so far with comparatively few divisions, and, 
had they chosen to make a serious advance in the orthodox German 
manner, the way to southern Russia and the Black Sea shore was 
open before them. Kornilov was making a stout defence of the 
border river, but no man knew better than he that he had no 
army on which he could rely. Brussilov had been dismissed on 
31st July, and Kornilov had taken his place as Commander- 
in-Chief, the fifth to hold that office since the outbreak of war. 



34 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Aug. 

Tcheremisov took over the south-western front, Denikin the 
western, and Klembovski the north, while Parski succeeded Radko 
Dmitrieff with the Twelfth Army. Nothing could be better proof 
of the confusion of the Russian commands than this constant 
transposition of generals. But the Central Powers halted, and did 
not pluck the fruit which lay ready to their hand. They had 
secured all that for the moment they desired. The armies of the 
Revolution had been given the coup de grace. It remained to let 
the mischief work a little longer, till the precarious civil government 
of Kerenski should likewise topple over. 

Meantime on the Rumanian Sereth and in the Moldavian 
passes Mackensen had no such easy task as fell to Boehm-ErmoUi 
and Bothmer. In the middle of July the Rumanian front ran 
from the Gitoz Pass along the Putna valley to its junction with 
the Sereth east of Focsani. The Russian General Tcherbachev, 
who had led the Seventh Army in the Galician offensive of the 
previous year, was in command of the front, which was held on 
the north by the Russian Fourth Army and in the centre by the 
Rumanian Second Army under Avarescu. A considerable artillery 
strength had been accumulated, especially in Avarescu's area. 
On 24th July, when the Austrians were in Tarnopol, a bombard- 
ment began against the enemy position in the valley of the Susitza, 
a tributary of the Sereth, which was held by the right wing of the 
Austrian I. Army. This area was of great strategical importance, 
for it covered the short length of railway between Marasesti and 
Tecuciu, which connected the line from Focsani along the foot of 
the mountains that served the Rumanian front in the hill glens 
with the main line from Galatz to Jassy. At four in the morning 
of the 26th Avarescu attacked, and in three days' hard fighting 
drove the Austrians south to the Putna valley, taking some 3,000 
prisoners. On 7th August Mackensen came to the rescue. De- 
moralization was spreading in the Russian Fourth Army, and in 
the Bistritza valley, which descends from the Bekas, whole regi- 
ments were deserting their posts.* The time had arrived to break 
the Rumanian centre north and east of Focsani, and wrest from 
them the vital loop line. He pushed his way back to the Susitza, 
taking over 3,000 prisoners, crossed that stream, and came within a 

* We possess an account of the demoralization of this army, written by its 
Chief of Staff, General N. de Monkevitz (La Decomposition de I'Armee Russe, 
French trans., 1919). In July there were over 40,000 men who did nothing 
but talk on committees. All was over when the artillery, which had been the 
backbone, declared for immediate peace. The book is a tragic study in mil- 
itary pathology. 



1917] THE STAND OF RUMANIA 35 

mile or two of Marasesti. Farther north in the Trotus valley the 
Austrians drove in the unstable Russian front, with the result that it 
had to be withdrawn to Ocna. Soon the enemy, in spite of des- 
perate counter-attacks, had advanced five miles and taken 7,000 
prisoners. Not Marasesti only was in jeopardy, but the junction of 
Adjudul, which was the key of the Carpathian lines. The Ruma- 
nian Government at J assy were preparing to retire into south Russia. 
On Tuesday, 14th August, Rumanian troops, who had replaced 
the Russians in the Trotus valley, counter-attacked from Ocna, 
and advanced for six miles. Their impetus, however, was soon 
exhausted, and once again they drew back towards the Sereth. 
Mackensen, farther south, pushed as far as the bridge where the 
Marasesti loop line crossed the Sereth. It was clear that the de- 
cisive battle would be fought for the crossing of the river, and 
for that purpose the German commander had brought up more 
than a dozen fresh divisions, including nine German. The whole 
front of a hundred miles from the mountains to Galatz was ablaze. 
The brunt of the fighting fell on the Rumanian First and Second 
Armies, and their difficulties were increased by the frequent defec- 
tion of Russian units. The crisis of the battle was around Mara- 
sesti, and from that town will be named one of the greatest fights 
in Rumania's history. Mackensen was aiming at clearing Mol- 
davia, as his colleagues had cleared Galicia and the Bukovina, 
and bringing the whole of what had once been the Rumanian 
kingdom under the yoke. The fury and persistence of the attack 
were matched by the resolution of the defence, and that resolu- 
tion triumphed. The last great effort was made on the night of 
the 19th ; it failed with the loss of many prisoners, and there- 
after the struggle for the Sereth crossing languished, and the battle 
swung towards the Ocna section. There the Second Rumanian 
Army equalled the prowess of the First, and August closed with 
Mackensen far from his objectives. 

The melancholy confusion of the Eastern front during these 
months prevented what Rumania had done from receiving its due 
recognition. It was in truth a splendid achievement. The small 
nations had a heroic record in the war, but not Belgium or Serbia 
had surpassed Rumania's performance. Broken in many battles 
against odds, she had been driven to her last defences, fighting 
desperately for every mile. She had seen all but a fraction of her 
territory seized by the enemy. She had suffered the last priva- 
tions and anxieties, and she was far from the only allies in whom 
she trusted. Yet in spite of every difficulty she had reconstructed 



36 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Aug. 

her armies, assisted by General Berthelot and his French mission, 
and now held her ground against attacks from the flower of the 
Austrian and German forces. And she held it virtually alone. 
Tcherbachev was a brave and competent soldier, but his Fourth 
Army was now for the most part a rabble. In those days might 
have been seen a magic spectacle — Russian regiments drifting 
away without orders from their lines, and singing maudlin songs 
about liberty, while on the other side of the road wearied Rumanian 
troops with stern faces and contemptuous eyes marched up to 
take the place of the deserters. Rumania saw the enemy on the 
north and west and south, and to the east only the quaking bog 
of anarchy ; but without hope of supplies or way of retreat or that 
comfort which comes from contact with allies, she continued to 
do her duty. The message sent to her by the British Prime Min- 
ister was an attempt to put into words the admiration of her far-off 
friends : "On the anniversary of Rumania's entry into the war, I 
wish to express on behalf of the Britieh Government our heartfelt 
admiration for the heroic courage and endurance displayed by the 
Rumanian people during a year of almost unparalleled trial. The 
re-creation of their Army and the stubborn and invaluable resist- 
ance which it is now making against the enemy under conditions 
of exceptional difficulty is a magnificent example of the strength 
which freedom inspires in a free people. It is no less a proof of the 
resolution which animates all the Allied armies to prosecute the 
war until victory is won, a victory which I have never doubted 
they will ultimately achieve." 

On 17th July, when the Russian offensive in Galicia was on 
the eve of its disastrous climax, the Bolsheviks in Petrograd, led 
by Lenin and Trotski, attempted to seize the reins of government. 
They were supported by the Kronstadt sailors and various dis- 
affected elements in the troops. But the Petrograd Soviet was 
against them, and, after some indiscriminate rioting. General 
Polovtsov, with the help of a few Cossack regiments, restored 
order, and Lenin went into hiding. It was decided to disarm 
the Insurgent workmen, and warrants were issued for the arrest 
of the Bolshevik leaders ; but at the last moment Kerenski drew 
back. "They are my political opponents," he said; and the 
orders were countermanded. He was soon to have cause to regret 
his misplaced chivalry. 

Kerenski had now to face two very different antagonisms. He 
was attacked by the growing forces of Bolshevism as a foe to the 



19 1 7] THE MOSCOW CONFERENCE 37 

Revolution and an enemy of the people because he had devised 
the offensive ; and he had to satisfy the generals and the patriotic 
elements still left in Russia, who urged drastic reforms in the 
army, the restoration of the old discipline, and the retention of 
the country in line with the Allies. Between such opposites there 
could be no truce ; he must cast in his lot with one or the other. 
He had now become Prime Minister in place of Prince Lvov, and 
he found it hard to form his Cabinet. The Bolsheviks were in 
flat opposition ; the Mensheviks were coming to the conclusion 
that the Provisional Government was a farce destined to a speedy 
end, and Tseretelli resigned, preferring the Soviets as a field of 
action. The Social Revolutionaries supported the Prime Minister, 
as did the Centre and the Right ; and he had among his ministers 
types as diverse as Tchernov and Skobelov on one side, and Terest- 
chenko on the other. It was an uneasy team, and, besides Keren- 
ski, included but one man of real importance, the acting Minister 
of War, Boris Savinkov, whose strange career had embraced the 
parts of novelist and desperado. Something was gained for disci- 
pline by the restoration of the death penalty in the army, and by 
the resolution of the Executive Committee of the All-Russian 
Soviets in July which gave unlimited power to the Provisional 
Government. The Soviets were at the moment in the mood for 
drastic action against Lenin and his friends ; but Kerenski declined 
the opportunity thus offered. As Prime Minister, he made one 
final attempt to call the nation to unity ; for he still believed 
that a formula could be found to combine irreconcilables, and that 
by wary shepherding the Bolsheviks and the Cadets might yet be 
brought into one fold. He was not prepared without a last effort 
of conciliation to declare any party enemies of the republic. 

This efTort was the conference at Moscow, which met on 26th 
August under the presidency of the Menshevik Nikitin, the Min- 
ister of Posts and Telegraphs. It included representatives of every 
known Russian organization, from the Soviets to the Knights of 
St. George. It was a singular gathering, most instructive to the 
student of history, for it reflected as in a mirror the thousand 
crude dreams and fancies of a people loosed from the bonds of men- 
tal and moral discipline. The old regime had been bad enough in 
all conscience, but it had been a Government ; the new regime was 
like the capricious play of children. Revenue by August had prac- 
tically ceased ; expenditure had soared amazingly, and to meet 
it the printing-presses could not cope with the manufacture of 
paper money. The issue of paper currency was in 19 16 over 



38 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Aug. 

£29,000,000 monthly; in the months since the Revolution the 
average had been over eighty-three millions. The army which 
had gone to pieces was costing more by a thousand millions ster- 
ling per annum than the army which a year before had shattered 
the Austrian front on the Dniester. Russian finance had become 
a system of bribes and public plunder, and the salaries of the 
soviet partisans alone amounted to many millions. Industries 
were mostly at a standstill, the cultivation of the soil was neglected, 
and the utter breakdown of transport made famine a certainty 
in the coming winter. But these were not the matters which 
weighed most at the Moscow Conference. The bulk of its members 
was far more concerned with the kind of ideal polity at which 
the nation should aim, forgetful of the fact that they were swiftly 
losing all that distinguished a nation from a horde. The idealism 
which set out to make a new heaven and a new earth had succeeded 
effectually in creating a new hell. 

Kerenski, faithful to his role, spoke plain words to all parties. 
He denounced those who would make a counter-revolution by 
bayonets, and he denounced those of the Left who would unwit- 
tingly achieve the same purpose by encouraging anarchy. He 
admitted that the main task before them was to revive the army, 
and he assured the soldiers present that he would protect them 
from Bolshevik intrigues, and would apply the death penalty ruth- 
lessly for treachery and cowardice. After his address came the 
group meetings. The Duma Conference supported the Premier's 
views on army reform and the prosecution of the war, and urged 
that the Government should free itself from the internationalism 
of the Soviets, and admit no rival authority in the direction of 
Russian policy. Here came the great conflict of opinion ; for the 
various parties of the Left would admit no tampering with the 
Soviets' power, and would have given them an equal or even superior 
authority to that of the Government. Then Kornilov* arrived 
from the front, and addressed the second sitting. He expounded 
the reason of the late debacle. Not the Revolution but the follies 
of the revolutionaries had taken the heart out of the army, and 
if that were not restored Russia and Russian freedom would perish 
at the hands of an alien tyranny. There must be discipline in 
the front line and no less discipline in the rear, for already the 
munition output had declined by 60 per cent, and the aircraft by 

* Kornilov was the son of a humble Siberian Cossack ; Denikin of a con- 
scripted serf who rose to be a non-commissioned officer. Both men were op- 
posed to the old rule of caste and privilege. 



1917] HUTIER AT RIGA 39 

80. When he finished his soldierly speech he walked out of the 
hall, the whole assembly rising to cheer him — all but the glum 
extremists, for whom the picture which Kornilov drew of a degraded 
and defeated Russia had no terrors, provided they were free to 
harangue and dream. Later Kaledin spoke for the Cossacks ; and 
on the last day Alexeiev, the greatest of Russian soldiers, pointed 
the moral of the recent defeats. The poison had been introduced 
into the army by the Order No. i of the first days of the Revolu- 
tion, which set the men against the officers and made disciplined 
training impossible. The whole system of army committees and 
commissaries was insane. Under it a general could not plan, 
officers could not lead, and troops would not obey. He urged 
the policy of Kornilov and Kaledin, and warned his hearers that 
every day's delay brought them nearer to utter destruction. 

There were many other speeches — notably wise advice given by 
Plekhanov and Prince Kropotkin and Madame Breshko-Bresh- 
kovskaya, reformers who had grown grey in striving for their 
country's freedom — and by the morning of the 28th the Conference 
had talked itself to a standstill. Strangely enough, there was an 
apparent agreement among the great majority of the delegates 
on vital points — the reform of the army and the restoration of 
its discipline, the continuance of the war, and the reconciliation 
of party quarrels. But with most the first two were pious opinions, 
and the third was irony. The breaches had not been healed. 
The Left clung to the ultimate hegemony of the Soviets over the 
Government, which the Moderates bitterly and justly opposed. 
Three-fourths of Russia had no inclination for the sacrifice and 
discipline that a continuance of war demanded. The gulf between 
the soldiers and the dreamers had been made visible to all, and 
across it straddled Kerenski, a hapless Colossus, who must soon 
make his election and leap to one side, or fall into the chasm. 

Meantime, Germany was acting. We can best follow the his- 
tory of the next two months by setting in juxtaposition according 
to dates the political and military happenings. 

In the last week of August, the German VIII. Army under a 
new general, Oskar von Hutier, formerly commanding the 21st 
Corps, whose name was soon to become famous, began to move 
forward. Hindenburg and LudendorfT had already made their 
plans for a great offensive in the West with the aid of the troops 
presently to be released from the Russian front, and Hutier was 
instructed to test certain new tactical methods upon the corpus vile 



40 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Sept. 

of the Russian right wing. This wing, the Twelfth Army under 
General Parski, was too demoralized to make serious resistance. 
By 29th August Hutier had reached the river Aa, where it curves 
to follow the coast line, and was attacking at Keckau, on the Dvina, 
ten miles south of Riga, while German warships were threatening 
the entrance to the Gulf. On Saturday, 1st September, the Ger- 
mans crossed the Dvina at UexkuU, eighteen miles up-stream from 
Riga, and by the Sunday evening had cut the Dvinsk railway and 
were five miles east of the Dvina, beyond the little river Jaegel. 
The defences of Riga were turned on the south-east, and on Mon- 
day morning Parski evacuated the city after blowing up the bridges. 
The same day the Germans entered, and, in spite of the [heroic 
resistance of certain "battalions of death" on the river line, were 
by the evening east of the Dvina on a broad front. The Russian 
Twelfth Army fell back north-eastward along the coast on the road 
to Petrograd, and by the 5th was thirty miles from Riga, on a 
wavering front of sixty miles. Its left still held Friedrichstadt, 
west of the Dvina, but its right on the coast was in rapid retreat, 
and its centre was pushed up the valley of the Livonian Aa towards 
Venden. Alexeiev was sent post-haste to deal with the situation, 
and he was able to steady the retreat, atid form a kind of front. 
But he could not save Friedrichstadt, and Hutier widened the 
breach at his leisure, taking Jacobstadt on the 23rd, the bridge- 
head on the Dvina seventy miles up-stream from Riga. The 
Germans did not press their attack with any haste, for they dis- 
cerned with accuracy what was about to happen in Russia. It 
was not their business to waste good troops and ammunition in 
forcing a door which would speedily be thrown open. 

So far from sobering the doctrinaires, the loss of Riga seemed to 
make them reckless. But it solemnized Kerenski, and for a moment 
swung him out of his detachment to seek an alliance with the 
soldiers. On 5th September he sent Savinkov, the acting Min- 
ister of War, to see Kornilov at Mogilev. What happened there- 
after is still obscure in some of its details, but the main events 
are clear. Savinkov warned the Commander-in-Chief that the 
Bolsheviks were threatening a rising in Petrograd within the week, 
and asked him to arrange to send a cavalry corps to the neigh- 
bourhood of the capital, which cavalry corps was to be for the pro- 
tection and at the disposal of the Provisional Government. He 
appears to have stipulated — though the evidence is not perfectly 
.clear — that the so-called "savage" division* of cavalry should 
* It was a division formed from the Circassian tribesmen. 



1917I THE KORNILOV AFFAIR 41 

not be Included, as It was Insufficiently disciplined for service In 
or near the capital, and that General Krymov should not be In 
command. On the 7th, Savlnkov left General Headquarters, and 
Vladimir Lvov arrived, also purporting to come from Kerenskl. 
To him Kornllov presently admitted that he thought a dictator- 
ship necessary, but that he did not care who was dictator — him- 
self, Kaledin, Alexelev, or Kerenskl. Lvov, speaking, as Kornilov 
thought, for the Prime Minister, declared that Kornilov should 
be the dictator. Next day Kornilov in all good faith drew up a 
plan for a Council of National Defence, with himself as President 
and Kerenskl as Vice-President. Then he spoke to Kerenskl on 
the telephone, and realized that either Lvov had exceeded his 
commission or the Prime Minister had changed his mind. The 
latter agreed to come to Mogilev on the 9th ; but on that day 
Kornilov received a peremptory order to hand over his command 
to General LukomskI and come to Petrograd, while at the same 
time he heard that Lvov had been arrested. Then followed another 
message appointing Klembovski Commander-in-Chief ; but neither 
he nor LukomskI would take up the post, and Kornilov remained 
Generalissimo. Krymov, with the 3rd Cavalry Corps, was already 
moving towards Petrograd, In defiance of Savlnkov's conditions. 
On loth September the Government suddenly proclaimed Kornilov 
traitor. 

The latter was In a complete quandary. He understood that, 
with the Germans pouring across the Dvlna on the road to Petro- 
grad, Kerenskl had accepted his view of the measures required. 
He took the proposals of Savlnkov and Lvov at their face value, 
and obeyed them as orders from the Government. As for the 
stipulation about Krymov, there seems to have been a grave 
misunderstanding, and it Is certain that there were forces working 
behind him, forces of which he knew nothing, which laboured to 
create such misunderstandings. When he received the confusing 
messages of the 8th, 9th, and loth he conceived It his duty to 
disregard them, knowing that Hutier would not wait on the vacil- 
lations of civilian statesmen. Accordingly he allowed Krymov to 
continue his advance to Petrograd. It Is less easy to explain Keren- 
ski's conduct. Probably he had not fully made up his mind when 
he dispatched Savlnkov to Mogilev ; he had toyed with the idea 
of crushing Bolshevism by force of arms, but at the last moment 
his courage failed him. Lvov had played the part of a busybody 
and a fool. If not of a conscious mischief-maker, and the mistake 
about Krymov was in itself good ground for suspicion. It is ira- 



42 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

possible to believe that Kerenski purposely set a trap for the 
Commander-in-Chief, though there were many in his immediate 
circle who were working to that end. He had never been on good 
terms with Kornilov, and he suddenly awoke to the fact that he 
was about to entrust the future of his country to one whom many 
parties — and apparently with justice — labelled a reactionary. 
He therefore flung himself into the arms of the Soviets, who discov- 
ered that in this matter the Bolsheviks were their allies. He pro- 
claimed himself Commander-in-Chief, and put himself at the head 
of the Petrograd troops. Red Guards were hurriedly enlisted, 
and the unfortunate Krymov found his communications cut in 
the rear. He found, too, no signs of the stand which he had 
been told the Government meant to make against the Bolshe- 
viks ; rather he found the Government and the Bolsheviks 
making common cause. Presently the soviet emissaries came out 
under Tchernov to meet his cavalry, and informed them that 
Kornilov had been declared a traitor and that those who stood by 
him were betraying the Revolution. Krymov, trapped and 
bewildered, saw his honour lost, and died by his own hand. 

It remained to dispose of Kornilov, that unconscious "traitor." 
Alexeiev was summoned to help in the 'task. Kornilov loyally 
handed over his command, and, with his headquarters staff, was 
placed under arrest. Then followed a campaign of calumny 
against all the generals. Kaledin, the hetman of the Cossacks, 
was accused of complicity in Kornilov's movement, and sum- 
moned to stand his trial ; but this his Cossacks forbade, and the 
affair ended in an apology from the Government. There was much 
talk of counter-revolutionary plots, but nothing was proved, and 
Gourko, who had been arrested, was released and allowed to go 
abroad. The full tale of the episode will in all likelihood never 
be unravelled ; but it is clear that, partly by accident, partly by 
the malice of third parties, two honourable men were brought into 
a false antagonism. Kerenski resolved on a certain course, and 
asked for Kornilov's assistance ; certain acts of Kornilov, done in 
all innocence, alarmed him, he lost his nerve and drew back, while 
Kornilov continued to obey his first instructions. The Prime 
Minister's change of mind may be explained and even defended, 
but it was none the less a fatal disaster, for the one hope of 
Russia lay in Kornilov's immediate advance on Petrograd. 

This affair drove the few remaining moderates out of the Cabinet. 
A new Council of Five was instituted — consisting of Kerenski, 
Terestchenko, General Verkhovski, Admiral Varderevski, and Niki- 



1917] WEAKNESS OF KERENSKI 43 

tin — and Russia was proclaimed a republic. The condition of the 
capital went from bad to worse; the retreating Russian armies 
gave themselves over to the shameless work of pillaging their own 
countrymen ; the sailors of the Baltic fleet murdered their officers ; 
and in the press of Kronstadt — the worst nest of anarchy — Lenin 
lifted up his voice afresh. Meantime Hutier, biding his time, was 
slowly pressing his easy victory. On 12th October he brought 
the German fleet into play against the mutinous Russian war- 
ships.* A large force was landed on the island of Oesel, in the 
Gulf of Riga, not eighty miles from the Russian naval base of 
Reval. By the i8th Mohn and Dago islands had been occupied 
with little trouble. The Germans entered by the Irben channel 
south of Oesel, and cut off the Russian retreat through Mohn 
Sound by a detachment which entered by Siele Sound and Kassar 
Bay. It was the very place where, in August 1915, Admiral 
Kannin had destroyed the German squadron which sought to 
land at Pernau. This success gave the enemy uninterrupted 
communications with the port of Riga and the command of the 
Livonian coast, so that they threatened the right rear of the 
retreating Twelfth Army. Reval was in instant danger, and on 
the 2 1 St the Germans landed on the Esthonian coast east of Mohn 
Island. The sword was now hanging over Petrograd itself. 

In the capital constitution-making went merrily on. In the 
early days of October a so-called Democratic Conference was held, 
consisting of 230 delegates from the Soviets, 300 from the muni- 
cipalities, 200 from the zemstvos, 120 from the co-operative socie- 
ties, 100 from the trade unions, 83 from the armies, and 35 from 
the Cossacks. It was agreed to form a new Coalition Ministry, 
and to provide a provisional parliament, to be called the Council 
of the Republic, pending the calling of a Constituent Assembly. 
The new Cabinet included four Cadets and a number of Moscow 
business men ; and on 20th October it faced its parliament, the 
Council of the Republic. The proceedings were not harmonious. 
Alexeiev reported gloomily on the state of the army, and Kerenski's 
only expedient was to co-ordinate the General Staff, the soviet 
commissaries, and the regimental committees in one organization 
— such a debating society as had played into Cromwell's hands at 
Dunbar or had handicapped Marlborough in his Flanders cam- 
paigns. He attacked with violent denunciation the Bolsheviks, 

* According to Ludendorff, one of the reasons for using the fleet was to 
counteract the revolutionary propaganda which was now spreading throughout 
the German Navy. — My War Memories (English trans.), II., p. 506. 



44 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Nov. 

who had been his allies against Kornilov. It was his last per- 
formance as Prime Minister, for the power had already gone from 
him. A few days later he sent a message to America that Russia 
was worn out, and that the Allies must shoulder the burden of 
the war. He was himself worn out, and during the last months 
had been falling into that disease of "grandeur" which is the sure 
presage of disaster. He lived royally in the Winter Palace ; he 
moved about attended by a glittering naval and military staff; 
he conducted himself with the hauteur of a monarch by divine 
right. The dark forces waiting in the shadows observed the 
portent, and decided that their hour had come. They had failed 
in the July Revolution, for the time was not ripe ; they had post- 
poned their September attempt, since Kerenski and Kornilov had 
played their game ; they were now ready to shatter a regime which 
they knew had no foundation. 

If Lenin was the Mazzini of the Bolshevik party, Trotski was 
its Garibaldi, and now at the age of forty he saw the chance for 
which he had long waited, and had the courage to take it. Lack- 
ing the pure, cold fervour of Lenin, he was that formidable com- 
bination, a fanatic in ideals but a politique in methods ; a man of 
action, adroit in seizing occasion, swift ifi deed, unscrupulous to 
the last degree in the weapons he used, but always conscious that 
he lived in a complex world, and ready to trim, intrigue, and 
compromise if the short road were barred. He began by captur- 
ing the Petrograd Soviet, of which he was now President. He 
then set to work to prepare a kind of General Staff, called the 
Military Revolutionary Committee, which co-operated with the 
Bolshevik elements in the Army and Navy and the industrial 
communities. He saw that the Army, which had defeated him in 
July, was now moribund ; he saw that the moderates and the 
bourgeoisie were without cohesion. He observed that Kerenski 
had no party at his back, and that the apathy and despair of Russia 
made her an easy prey to even a small body who were armed and 
resolute. His first business was to make that body dictators; 
his second to conclude peace with an enemy who would gladly 
be released for their heavy task in the West ; his third to summon 
the proletariat of all nations to do what had been done in Russia. 
His creed, one of the stalest and oldest in the world, has in every 
generation appeared somewhere for a brief season, only to perish 
by its own weakness. But in this case it had such a field as history 
had never shown before. In the weary and bewildered circles of 
Russian statecraft Trotski appeared like a leopard among kine. 



191 7] THE BOLSHEVIK REVOLT 45 

On Monday, 5th November, the Military Revolutionary Com- 
mittee ordered the Petrograd garrison to place itself under their 
instructions. Kerenski replied by suppressing the chief Bolshevik 
paper, and summoning the loyal troops to defend the Government. 
On Tuesday, 6th November, while Parliament by a majority of 
twenty-one was passing a vote of confidence in the Provisional 
Government, the military cadets, or "Junkers," occupied the 
bridges, stations, and telegraph offices, and put a cordon round 
Kerenski's residence, the Winter Palace. On Wednesday Lenin 
arrived, and the Bolsheviks made their headquarters at the Smolny 
Institute, a girls' school in the suburbs, whence they issued a proc- 
lamation announcing the fall of the Government and the transfer 
of power to the Soviets. Some few regiments declared for Kerenski, 
but the majority went over to Trotski ; while the Cossacks, mindful 
of the insult to Kaledin, sulked in their tents. Hourly the Red 
Guards grew in number, sailors arrived from kronstadt, and 
Trotski ordered the occupation of all stations and strategic points. 
Early on the morning of Wednesday, the 7th, Kerenski had fled, 
leaving the Winter Palace in charge of Konovalov, his Minister 
of Commerce, with a garrison of "Junkers" and women. That 
day the Red Guards captured the palace, committing many brutal- 
ities on the helpless women and boys, and by the evening the 
whole of Petrograd was in Bolshevik hands. In the evening, at 
a meeting of the Petrograd Soviet, Trotski and Lenin announced 
the success of the new revolution, and an All-Russia Congress of 
Soviets, meeting on the following day, ratified the decision. The 
government of the country was placed in the hands of a body 
called the Council of People's Commissaries, with Lenin as Presi- 
dent, Trotski Minister of Foreign Affairs, and a half-insane lieu- 
tenant, Krilenko, Commander-in-Chief of the remnants of the 
army. 

The new Government, as an oligarchy acting in the interests 
of a narrow class, proceeded to confiscate all lands not belonging 
to the proletariat, and to negotiate for an armistice with the enemy. 
It had, at any rate, the courage of its folly. Its military strength 
was of the slightest, and a couple of disciplined brigades could have 
overthrown it, but such were not at Kerenski's disposal. He 
collected, indeed, a few squadrons of Cossacks under General 
Krasnov, which occupied Tsarskoe Selo ; but, desirous of preventing 
bloodshed, he insisted on delivering orations, and presently the 
Red Guards scattered his buckram army. He had been a shadow 
in power, and now like a shade he disappeared, no man knew 



46 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Nov. 

whither and few men troubled to inquire. Russia had lost all 
interest in the whirligig of politics. While the Red Guards were 
battering at the door of the Winter Palace, the people of Petrograd 
went callously about their ordinary avocations, the trams were 
running as usual, and in the chief theatre a large audience was being 
entertained by M. Chaliapin. 

So fell one of the most curious figures of the war. The char- 
acter of Alexander Kerenski was clear to all men in its foibles and 
futilities ; but while the world could see his failure, it could not 
judge the crushing difficulties oi his task. He had the defects of 
his qualities ; for something febrile weakened his imaginative 
power, and sudden bursts of petulance impaired the vigour of his 
courage. His chief defect was Hamlet's ; he saw too far around 
his problems to have the single heart which is easy to the narrow 
vision. He discerned the faults of all parties, and — what was 
more fatal — he discerned the merits. He aimed at the impossible, 
the reconciliation of the Russian people in a new purpose. He did 
not succeed ; that he should have tried is proof of his lack of 
practical talent and of his immense egotism ; but let us admit 
that in his folly there was an element of sad nobility. It is by no 
means clear that even if he had been less tolerant and less cross- 
bench in mind, if he had flung in his lot with the moderates or the 
soldiers before it was too late, he could have saved his country. 
There was no weapon left in Russia for a statesman to fight with. 
Army, Cossacks, Cadets, peasants, intelligentsia, all broke in the 
hand of him who used them. The fates had decreed that no 
tinkering or welding could save the fabric. Russia must go into 
the furnace to be cast anew. 



CHAPTER LXXXVI 

CAPORETTO AND THE PIAVE 
October i6, igiy-January 28, 1918 

The New German Plan — Changes on the Isonzo Front — The Turin Riots — 
Otto von Below's Attack — The Break at Caporetto — The Austrians 
re-enter Gorizia — Retreat of the ItaHan Third Army — The Line of the 
TagHamento — The Line of the Livenza — The Piave — The Conference 
of Rapallo — The Defence of the Piave — The Winter Fighting — Thei 
Consequences of the Caporetto Disaster. 



During the summer months on the Eastern front, when the Rus- 
sian line had ceased to be a serious obstacle, the Germans, contrary 
to the expectations of many, did not advance. They abode 
quietly in their old positions, waiting upon events. But they were 
not idle. Ludendorff saw clearly the chances involved in the 
downfall of Russia, and he set himself patiently to train his troops 
for a new kind of warfare. Picked divisions were practised in open 
fighting. A new tactical scheme was evolved which demanded 
a high perfection of discipline and individual stamina. The 
Allies in the West had relied in their offensive on an elaborate 
artillery preparation, which, while it destroyed the enemy trenches, 
created a broad belt of devastation over which a swift advance 
was impossible. That was one error to be avoided. A second 
was the slowness with which the Allies brought up their reserves. 
In order to get the full cumulative effect of a blow, division must 
follow division to strike while the iron was hot. Again, the ele- 
ment of surprise must be recovered, and this might be got by a 
rapid assembly on the very eve of an assault, before the enemy's 
intelligence service could discern the concentration. It was also 
necessary to have the machine guns, the light trench mortars, and 
the field guns in the very van of an attack to prepare the way for 
the infantry ; and since an elaborate bombardment was foregone 
the enemy's hinterland must be confused by an extensive use of 
gas shells. Since the Western front became stationary after 

47 



48 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

First Ypres, Germany had been concerned chiefly with defensive 
tactics, for her victories in Russia, Serbia, and Rumania were won 
against a foe conspicuously inferior in equipment and training. 
In the West she had shown remarkable mental elasticity in devis- 
ing plans to frustrate the Allied assault, such as the defence in 
depth, the "pill-box," and the use of local counter-attacks. But 
now a Western off'ensive of her own was in prospect, and she must 
adjust her tactics to fit her special problem, and get the full value 
out of such assets as she possessed. The Allied methods from 
Neuve Chapelle to Third Ypres had depended upon a predomi- 
nance in artillery and numbers ; she had not the first, and she 
would have the second only for a month or two. Her tactics, 
therefore, must be less in the nature of a bludgeon, and must pro- 
vide for a more rapid and decisive success than the slow Allied at- 
trition. So with commendable energy she faced the problem, and 
found what she believed to be a solution. During the summer 
months the East formed one vast training camp, where patiently 
and methodically Ludendorff taught his new system of war. His 
aim was no less then to destroy by cataclysmic battles first the ar- 
mies of Italy, and then those of France and Britain, before the 
American forces arrived, and while Russia was helpless in anarchy. 
Brussilov's abortive Galician offensive in July made scarcely a 
break in the plan. By the beginning of September the new tactics 
were tried in the fields in Hutier's capture of Riga. Unfortunately 
for the Allies, there was no one present with Parski's defeated 
Russian Twelfth Army who could realize the importance of the 
new methods. It was assumed in the West thac the Russians 
were effete as a fighting force, and that anything possessed of dis- 
cipline was competent to break them. Meantime, Ludendorff 
was making ready for the first great test of his plan. Krafft von 
Delmensingen, Duke Albrecht's chief of staff in Lorraine, was 
sent to the Isonzo to prepare a plan, which was accepted by Aus- 
trian Headquarters. Some time in August Otto von Below was 
brought from the command of the German VI. Army in the West, 
his place being taken by Quast, and given charge of a new com- 
posite army, the XIV., composed of six German and seven Aus- 
trian divisions. In the German contingent was included the two 
divisions of the Alpenkorps, which had already distinguished them- 
selves in Rumania. Half of the field artillery was replaced by 
mountain guns, and the whole army was equipped not only for 
the practice of the new tactics, but for a campaign in a hilly coun- 
try. Rumours of something of the kind reached the West ; but 



1917] OTTO VON BELOW'S ARMY 49 

the German share was unknown, and it was assumed to be only 
the Austrian preparation for the long-rumoured offensive in the 
Trentino. More important, the German General Staff took over 
the actual direction of the Italian front. The shadowy figures of 
the Austrian army commanders still remained ; but the new strat- 
egy was wholly in Ludendorff's hands. On Boroevitch's right, 
between Tolmino and Plezzo, Otto von Below's XIV. Army crept 
quietly into position. The Austrian General Staff had hitherto 
thought of an offensive as possible only from some base like Gori- 
zia or the Trentino, where they had good road and rail communi- 
cations behind them. Ludendorff, with the boldness of true mili- 
tary genius, resolved to surprise his opponents by attacking from 
one of the most apparently unpromising sections of the whole 
Julian front — that between Tolmino and Plezzo. There, he 
argued, he might catch Cadorna asleep. There, too, the Italian 
front was ill-sited, zigzagging as it did across the Isonzo, and 
stretching in a dangerous arc along the crest of Monte Nero. The 
three spots where the valley broadened — Plezzo, Caporetto, and 
Tolmino — were also spots where tributary valleys entered from 
the east, thus providing avenues for the assault. There, too, lay 
the chance for a decisive strategical gain. For across the river, 
beyond Monte Matajur and Monte Globocac, the valleys of the 
Natisone and the Judrio ran direct to the Friulian plain far in rear 
of the Italian lines. If by a swift surprise Below could reach Civi- 
dale and Udine, he might cut off the bulk of the Italian Second 
Army and the whole of the Third, and achieve a mightier Sedan. 
The Central Powers left nothing to chance. For months they 
had been sowing tares in Italian fields. A secret campaign was 
conducted throughout Italy, which preached that peace might be 
had for the asking, and urged Italian socialists to throw down 
their arms and fraternize with their brothers from beyond the 
mountains. If Austria attacked, it was said, it was only to enforce 
the views of the Vatican and establish the brotherhood of the 
proletariat ; let her advance be met with white flags and open 
arms, and the reign of capitalism and militarism would be over. 
This appeal, insidiously directed both to the ignorant Catholic 
peasantry and to the extreme socialists of the cities, worked havoc 
with the Italian moral. Orlando, the Minister of the Interior, 
was averse from repressive measures, and enemy propaganda had 
for the moment almost as clear a field as in the Russia of the Revo- 
lution. The poison had infected certain parts of the army to an 
extent of which the military authorities were wholly ignorant. 



50 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

The events of August in Turin did not open their eyes. Turin 
had always been the centre of the wilder kind of socialism ; it was 
the one city of Italy which responded to the declaration of war in 
May 1915 with a general strike ; and during the summer the rov- 
ing delegates of the Russian Soviets had there been given an openly 
political welcome. As one of the chief munition centres its state 
of feeling had a direct influence on the conduct of the war. In 
August serious riots broke out, ostensibly on account of the scar- 
city of bread. There was reason to believe that this scarcity had 
been secretly organized, for even after it had been relieved the 
trouble continued. There was evidence of a widespread anarchist 
system, liberally financed with enemy money, and during the riots 
hobbledehoys were found dead in the streets with large sums in 
their pockets. There was something like mutiny, too, among the 
troops allotted to quell the disorder, and regiments had to be 
brought in from other districts. Turin, as a consequence, was 
placed within the war zone, in order that martial law might be 
enforced in case of trouble. The exemption from military service 
of many of the munition workers was cancelled, and they were 
formed into battalions, which, instead of being used on lines of 
communication, were dispatched to the Julian front, and by a 
singular mischance were placed in the ominous sector between 
Plezzo and Tolmino. 

At the beginning of October the Italian front was quiet. The 
Fifth Army, under General Morrone, lay on the west side of the 
Trentino, and Pecori-Giraldi's First Army on the east side as far 
as the Brenta. De Robilant's Fourth Army held the Cadore and 
Carnic front ; Capello's Second Army, now very weary, held the 
Isonzo north of Gorizia ; and the Duke of Aosta's Third Army lay 
from Gorizia to the Adriatic. The Second Army, which defended 
sixty-three miles of front, had only two weak corps, the 4th and 
the 27th, on the twenty-seven miles between Tolmino and Monte 
Rombon.* A sense of uneasiness was abroad, generated partly by 
the knowledge of the High Command that some kind of Austrian 
offensive was maturing, and partly by the expectation of the 
extremists and pacificists, nourished on enemy propaganda, that 
the hour was approaching when the proletariat would take the 
reins and Italian and Austrian soldiers would make peace in defi- 
ance of generals and cabinets. In the middle of October there was 

* Taking the Italians from the sea northwards, in the first eight miles there 
were eleven battalions to the kilometre ; in the next seven miles (Gorizia), six 
battalions ; in the next fifteen miles (Bainsizza), eight battalions ; and in the 
next fifteen (Caporetto), only two. 



1917] FALL OF BOSELLI GOVERNMENT 51 

a small action in Cadore, in which for the first time the presence of 
German troops was established. Hitherto Germans and Italians 
had never met, except in Macedonia, and the news increased the 
popular anxiety, though Cadorna assured the country that the Jul- 
ian front was perfectly safe. By the 21st it was known that both 
German and Austrian reserves had arrived on the Isonzo ; but 
scepticism still prevailed as to a serious offensive. It was believed, 
even by the High Command, that Austria was morally and eco- 
nomically exhausted, and that Germany's slowness to advance in 
Russia was due to weakness and not to purpose. Nothing was 
suspected of Ludendorff's patient summer preparations. 

The malaise of anxiety was reflected in Parliament, which met 
on 1 6th October. The Government was strongly criticized both 
by the extreme Socialists and the patriotic Opposition, chiefly on 
the ground of domestic mismanagement. Boselli was too old, and 
had no policy ; and, when he was confronted with a difficulty, 
merely created a new minister — such was the burden of a com- 
plaint not unfamiliar also in Britain and France. Nitti, the Nea- 
politan professor, spoke on the 21st; and, while trenchant in his 
criticism, defended Orlando, and appealed eloquently for national 
unity. On the 23rd Orlando made a speech which established his 
parliamentary position, and made certain his succession to the 
premiership. While strongly for the war, his respect for Parlia- 
ment and his devotion to the liberty of the individual made him 
acceptable to the Giolittians and the neutralists. Sonnino spoke 
on the 25th, and dealt vigorously with pacificism, and notably 
with the Vatican Peace Note. On the 26th the Boselli Govern- 
ment fell, with general consent. It had been too much of a party 
compromise and not enough of an efficient machine. Yet it did 
not so much fall as re-form itself, the chief figures remaining in 
different posts, since at such a crisis the country could not suffer 
any proved talent to be out of office. For on the 24th that had 
happened which had made the Osservatore Romano to lie down with 
the Idea Nazionale, and had called every true son of Italy to the 
defence of her crumbling frontiers. 

The Italian lines on the middle Isonzo dropped from the Bain- 
sizza to the right bank north of Auzza, and continued, on that shore 
to a point north of Tolmino. There they crossed, ran along the 
crest of Monte Nero, covering Caporetto, and recrossed where the 
Isonzo bent sharply eastward south of Plezzo. Thence on the right 
bank they ran to the west of the high peak of Monte Rombon. 
North of Rombon lay the Austrian X. Army under Krobatin; 



52 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

south lay Otto von Below, whose force was disposed in four groups 
of assault : Krauss's group, mainly Austro-Hungarian, from Monte 
Rombon to Monte Nero ; Stein's to Tolmino ; Berrer's to the Idria ; 
and Scotti's thence to Lom. The Caporetto section was a large 
bridgehead on the left bank of the river, held by the Italians to 
guard the road and railway approaches to the valley of the Nati- 
sone, which led to Cividale and Udine and the Friulian plain. 
The place was peculiarly vulnerable, for it could be attacked 
either from Plezzo or Tolmino, from up or from down the Isonzo, 
and the lines on Monte Nero were too remote to protect the deep 
valley below. For several days the enemy guns had been firing 
ranging shots, and on the night of the 23rd a heavy bombardment, 
principally with gas shells, had broken out on the twenty-five mile 
front between Monte Rombon and Auzza. Cadorna was now ap- 
prised of what was coming, and his morning communique of the 24th 
was a warning to his countrymen. "The enemy," it ran, "with the 
help of German troops and miHtary units of all kinds, has com- 
pleted a very heavy concentration against our front. The enemy 
offensive finds us firm and prepared." Capello, commanding the 
Second Army, had been on sick leave frqm the 19th to the 22nd. 

Dawn broke on the 24th in thick mist and driving rain, which 
on the higher hills changed to snow. For a little the guns ceased 
on both sides, and then in the early forenoon the Austrian bom- 
bardment opened violently on the chosen sector. It was the 
weather which Below desired, for it gave him the chance of sur- 
prise. The infantry were hurled against the whole front from 
Rombon to the south end of the Bainsizza. On the left and the 
right the line held, but in the centre, from Saga to Auzza, the first 
Italian position was carried, and in the afternoon the enemy was 
across the river attacking the reserve lines. It was now clear that 
there were three main threats — one from Plezzo up the glen to- 
wards Monte Maggiore, at the mouth of which lay the village of 
Saga ; one from his bridgehead at Tolmino against Monte Glo- 
bocac and the upper streams of the Judrio ; and one aimed at 
Caporetto and Monte Matajur and the Starasella pass, leading to 
the valley of the Natisone. By the evening the enemy was on 
the slopes west of the Isonzo. The Austrian attack at Saga was 
gallantly held, and the progress westward from the Tolmino bridge- 
head was stubbornly resisted. But it was otherwise at Caporetto. 
The attack from Tolmino turned up the valley, and joined the 
pressure downstream from the direction of Saga, so that the 4th 
Corps was taken in reverse. There Below's German 12th Divi- 



I9I7] CAPORETTO 53 

sion was in action ; and there, too, were found treachery and folly 
in the Italian ranks. There were strange tales of men running out 
with white flags to greet their Teuton "comrades," and being 
shot down or made prisoners. There were tales of troops in 
reserve who refused to advance. The comradeship which the 
unhappy recreants found was an imprisonment which for nine 
out of ten was to mean death by starvation. Treason in this case 
was most grimly punished. 

All through the 25th the struggle went on, and on the morning 
of the 26th the Italian line from Monte Magglore to Auzza was 
back on or behind the frontier crest. The Bainsizza plateau had 
been lost ; it had taken twenty days of hard fighting to capture it, 
and in twelve hours it had gone. Cadorna had moved his head- 
quarters from Udine to Padua. In the great debacle there were 
many superb feats of heroism, such as that of the Alplni on Monte 
Nero, who held out for several days and died almost to a man, and 
the troops on Monte Globocac, who defended successfully the 
gate of the Judrlo till It had ceased to matter. But the two corps 
in the Caporetto section had melted away, and through the breach 
Below was pouring his men over Monte Matajur. So complete 
had been the breakdown that that summit fell at 7 a.m. on the 
morning of the 25th, twenty-three hours after the attack began. 

On the 27th the avalanche Increased its speed. It was no 
question now of holding the frontier ridge ; the only hope was 
the Tagliamento, the Plave, or it might be the Adige. Already 
over 60,000 prisoners had been lost, and some hundreds of guns. 
That day saw the end of the defence on the Maggiore-Matajur 
ridge. Next day, the 28th, Cadorna's grave communique brought 
home the truth to the Italian people. It was censored before 
publication, for, as he wrote it originally, he did not speak of In- 
sufficient resistance but of naked treason. The crisis was such 
as the war had scarcely shown — a calamity sudden, unlocked for, 
and overwhelming. On that day, the 28th, Below debouched 
from the Natisone valley on the Friullan plain. The burning 
ruins of CIvIdale were in his hands, and Udine was at his mercy. 
The Second Army, weary with the autumn offensive, weakened 
with discontent and treason, and shattered by the Impact of 
the new tactics, had become a fugitive rabble. That day, and 
not an hour too soon, the Third Army on the Carso began Its 
desperate task of retreat. That evening the Austrians re-entered 
Gorizia. 

Such was the rout of Caporetto, the greatest disaster suffered 



54 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

in so short a time by any combatant in the campaign. The re- 
sponsibility for it must rest mainly with Cadorna and the High 
Command ; the responsibility both for the actual break between 
Saga and Tolmino, and for the later degringolade which brought 
the enemy to the Piave. The Second Army had been heavily tried 
in the recent fighting, and was a force which in its then condition 
was capable of a normal winter defensive, but no more. Cadorna 
had given up all thought of a further advance that autumn ; but 
he had already brought up his batteries for it, and his guns were 
dangerously far forward for defence. He realized early in October 
that an enemy offensive was coming, and coming almost certainly 
in the Rombon-Tolmino sector, and he hesitated whether to meet 
it by a retreat or to hold his existing front. He finally decided for 
the latter, but took no steps to ensure that the front would stand, 
though that piece of line was obviously the most precariously sited 
in his whole Isonzo area. These facts reveal a strange confusion 
and improvidence. The endangered front was held by two weak 
corps, into which the malcontents of Turin had been drafted, and 
this at a time when pacificism was in the air, and every intelligent 
field officer was pointing out its insidious' growth among the troops. 
There was no real reserve. There was no liaison between the 4th 
Corps and the troops on its left and right. Behind them the old 
Friulian defence system had been discarded, and the forts on the 
Tagliamento dismantled ; but there were twelve prepared alter- 
nate lines between the Isonzo and Udine, good lines which might 
have been held had the problem of retirement ever been worked 
out by Cadorna and his staff, and proper instructions issued to the 
subordinate commands. There were other and graver derelic- 
tions. The Commander-in-Chief's methods were too often like a 
bad copy of Prussianism ; no effort had been made to counteract 
the inevitable war-weariness, to relieve the intolerable tedium of 
trench life, or to improve the inadequate ration scale. The Ital- 
ian High Command were fully informed both as to the impaired 
moral of some of the troops and the weariness of all, and as to the 
intentions of the enemy, but either in their isolation they did not 
realize the gravity of the news or in their supineness they were too 
slow to take the necessary measures. Some incident like Capo- 
retto was inevitable sooner or later in an army which was con- 
stituted like the Italian and had endured so fierce an ordeal ; 
that the breach was not repaired but spread into a general dis- 
solution was due in some degree to the merits of the new Ger- 
man tactics, in some degree to unavoidable misfortune, like the 



191 7] ITALY'S TRIAL 55 

weather, but mainly to the lethargy and blindness of the High 
Command.* 

The situation was the gravest that Italy had met since she en- 
tered the war — the gravest, save for the tremendous days of the 
Marne and the crisis of First Ypres, which the Allies had yet wit- 
nessed in the West. Capello's command had been broken in 
pieces, and was no longer an army. Streaming back in wild dis- 
order to the Friulian plain, it uncovered the Duke of Aosta's flank, 
and seemed to imprison him between the invaders and the Adriatic. 
The suspicion that treachery had in some degree contributed to 
the disaster was like to make the retreat more difficult, for such 
news spreads like a fever among troops and saps their resolution. 
The huge salient had broken at the apex, and every mile of retire- 
ment on the east meant a complex withdrawal on the north. Upon 
forces wearied with a long campaign descended in a black accumu- 
lation every element of peril which had threatened Italy since 
she first drew the sword. 

The spirit of the nation rose gallantly to the call of danger. 
The grim communique of the 28th brought down many a poli- 
tician's castle of cards. On 27th October the king had arrived 
in Rome, and on 1st November the new Ministry was announced, 
with Orlando as Premier, Sonnino at the Foreign Office, the young 
Neapolitan Nitti at the Treasury, and Alfieri as Minister of War. 
More important than Cabinet changes was the unanimity of the 
people. All — almost all — sections of the nation and the press 
faced the crisis with a splendid fortitude. Party quarrels were 
forgotten, there was little recrimination for past blunders, and the 
resolution of a united Italy was braced to meet the storm. Only 
a few extremists, to whom the disaster was not unwelcome, stood 
aloof, and their organ, the Avanti, continued to preach the arid 
follies of the class war. 

The strain was increased by ignorance as to what forces were 
sweeping down on the northern plain from the Isonzo hills. Ru- 
mour spoke of twenty, thirty, forty German divisions under Mac- 
kensen marching through the gap, and the legend grew with every 
lip that uttered it. Even the High Command was in perplexity, 
and put the enemy at a far higher figure than the facts warranted. 
Otto von Below had only his six German divisions, and could not 
hope for reinforcements yet awhile. It was Italy's salvation that 
the enemy was as much surprised as herself. He had m.ade an 

* Cadoma's most interesting apologia will be found in his La Guerra alia 
f route lialiana, 2 vols., 192 1. 



56 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

experiment which he hoped would return to Austria her old western 
boundaries ; it had in fact opened the way to Milan ; but he was 
not prepared for such a miracle of fortune. Had he been ready to 
strike from the Trentino against the Italian First Army, and from 
Carnia against the Fourth, while Below and Boroevitch pressed 
in the Second and Third, he might have annihilated the military 
power of Italy. Broken at the point of her salient, she could not in 
these terrible days have resisted even a moderate offensive on her 
northern flank, and the line of the Adige might have been turned 
before Cadorna's rearguards reached the Tagliamento. But Lu- 
dendorff had not made the plan for so wholesale a conquest ; that 
came later, but when it came the golden opportunity had gone. 

On Saturday, 27th October, Below was in Cividale ; the Third 
Army, after a fine rearguard action in the Vallone, had retired 
from the Carso, and Boroevitch was in Gorizia. Next day Below 
was on the edge of Udine, the little city with its cathedral-crowned 
height and its narrow, arcaded streets which mounts guard over 
the Friulian plain. The gravest problem was the position of the 
Third Army. When it began to fall back from the Carso, it was 
no nearer the Tagliamento than the spearhead of the enemy, and 
the Tagliamento was the first halting-place for Cadorna's retreat. 
The Second Army had gone, and by Sunday the enemy had 100,000 
prisoners from it, and 700 of its guns. For a moment it seemed 
certain that the Duke of Aosta would share the fate of Capello. 
A million of men were retreating along the western highways, en- 
cumbered with batteries and hospitals and transport, while by 
every choked route peasants and townsmen fled for refuge from 
the Austrian cavalry. Units lost discipline, orders miscarried, 
roads were blocked for hours, and all the while down from the 
north came the menace of Below, swooping southward to cut off 
all retreat. There had been nothing like it before in the cam- 
paign, not even in the Russian debacle of 1915, for then there had 
been great open spaces to move in. In the gut of Friulia, between 
the foothills and the sea, a mass of humanity was struggling west- 
ward, soldiers and civilians mingled inextricably. There could be 
no attempt at traffic control, but it was tacitly understood that no 
one moved for half the night while horses and drivers slept. Here 
and there was blind panic ; here and there troops, mostly young 
recruits, made bitter gibes about Trieste, and thanked God for 
the end of the war ; but the majority toiled steadily and silently. 
Under leaden skies and pouring rain they pressed feverishly on, 
for it was a race against time if they were not to find the Taglia- 



1917] RETREAT OF THIRD ARMY 57 

mento held by the enemy. And from the country they were leav- 
ing, now lit up with the glow of bursting shells and blazing 
villages, came horrible tales of rapine and outrage by the Austrian 
vanguards. If ever panic was to be forgiven it was on those 
nightmare miles where troops were set a task too high for human 
valour. 

But to its eternal glory the Third Army did not fail. With 
heavy losses, and by the narrowest margin, it won the race. There 
were two roads of retreat, each attended by a railway — that from 
Udine to Pordenone, which crosses the Tagliamento by the long 
bridge of Codroipo first built by Napoleon, and that from Mon- 
falcone to Portogruaro, with a bridge at Latlsana. There were 
many byroads and lesser bridges, but these were the only high- 
ways for heavy traffic. For three days — from 28th October to 
30th October — a curtain of darkness seemed to descend on the 
Italian stage. There were no claims from the enemy, no clear 
news from Cadorna. On the 28th the Austrians were in Cor- 
mons ; on the 29th the Germans were in Udine. On the 30th 
remnants of the Second Army were crossing the river at Codroipo, 
and a kind of defensive flank had been established facing north to 
cover the vital crossing of Latisana. Next day the bulk of the 
Third Army crossed, sacrificing its rear divisions and 500 guns ; 
and on the first day of November the Duke of Aosta was in posi- 
tion on the western bank, with the river roaring in flood between 
him and his pursuers. For a moment there was a pause, while 
the enemy, who had outstripped his heavy batteries, waited on 
their arrival. The race had been won, but it was a shattered 
remnant of Cadorna's armies which drew breath after their week 
of torment. The enemy claimed 200,000 prisoners and 1,800 
guns, and his claim was not far from the truth. He seemed on 
the eve of a decisive victory. 

The Third Army's retreat was one of those performances in war 
which succeed against crazy odds, and which, consequently, we 
call inexplicable. It made an Italian stand possible, and deprived 
the enemy of the crowning triumph which he almost held in his 
hands. Only the disorganization of Boroevitch's army, which 
had no speed or method in its pursuit, permitted the Duke of 
Aosta to snatch safety out of apparently certain disaster. How 
desperate was the struggle may be judged from what we know of 
the retirement of the naval batteries on the coast flank. There 
were such batteries at Monfalcone, at Punta Sdobba, and at the 
point of Grado ; and when, on the 28th, the Third Army's retire- 



58 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

ment began, there seemed nothing to prevent the Austrian fleet 
from issuing from Pola and landing on the Venetian shore in rear 
of the retreat. For only light naval forces watched the coast, 
and the main Allied Navy was at Taranto, 600 miles away. The 
rain fell in sheets, and a wind from these a drove up the tide so 
that the canals overflowed and flooded the marshes. After thirty- 
six hours of heavy toil the guns were got out of Monfalcone, but 
not before the rearguard of Italian marines was exchanging rifle 
shots with the Austrian van. The guns were dragged through 
the swamps, or placed on rafts and poled through the shallows 
amid the rising storm. Grado was reached and presently evacu- 
ated, and with the enemy pressing on their heels, the marines suc- 
ceeded in making their way through the labyrinth of the coastal 
lagoons till they reached the Piave mouth, and became the pillar 
of the right wing of the new front. But the greatest glory of all 
was won by the cavalry, troops like the Novara Lancers and the 
Genoa Dragoons, some of the finest horsemen in Europe, who again 
and again charged the enemy and sacrificed themselves with cheer- 
fulness that the retreat might win half an hour's respite. Said 
one colonel to his officers : "The canaille have betrayed our coun- 
try's honour ; now we, the gentlemen 01 Italy, will save it," and 
wheeled his squadrons into the jaws of death. 

The Tagliamento was clearly no line to abide on. It was less 
a river than a torrent ; in seasons of flood a mile wide, but for 
most of the year a tangle of shallow channels flowing among wastes 
of pebbles. The bed of the stream, silted up with gravel brought 
down from the hills, was a score of feet above the level of the 
surrounding country. At the moment it was in flood, but by ist 
November the rain had stopped and the stream was falling, so it 
opposed but a slender obstacle to the enemy. Moreover, it 
could be easily turned on the north, and in the main railway 
through the Pontebba pass the Austrians had the means to their 
hand for such an operation. Cadorna could halt for a day or two 
to re-form, but he dare not linger. If the Tagliamento were given 
up, there was no good line till the Adige was reached, some sixty 
miles to the west. But to retire to the Adige would be to uncover 
Venice. The importance of that famous city was more than sen- 
timental. It was the key to the Adriatic, the key to the whole of 
Italy's defence. With Venice in the enemy's hands, the Italian 
warships would have been compelled to fall back four or five hun- 
dred miles to a base at Brindisi. Austria would have controlled 
the northern Adriatic, and her fleet could no longer be shut up in 



1917] THE PIAVE LINE 59 

Pola and inside the Dalmatian islands. She would be able to send 
her submarines in large numbers out into the Mediterranean and 
dislocate the Allied naval commerce with the East. She would 
have a free hand to harry the coasts of Italy. With Venice gone, 
Italy's right flank was unprotected, for in truth her front did not 
stop short with the shore line. The Adige was therefore out of the 
question, and by hook or by crook a halting-place must be found 
which kept Venice inside her country's battle line. To this problem 
there could be only one answer. The stand must be on the Piave. 
It was not a front which a general would select had he any 
choice. The river rises among the fantastic Dolomite peaks, and 
flows south in a narrow mountain vale till at Belluno it turns to 
the south-west and emerges from the hills. In the forty miles 
of its mountain course it is no serious obstacle to any enemy. At 
Belluno it has become a considerable stream, and, after a wide 
bend through the leaf-shaped hollow towards Feltre, the foothills 
close in on it at the pass of Quero. It has now something of the 
character of the Tagliamento, a broad bed where many branches 
strain through gravel, between embankments to keep the floods 
from the lower levels of the surrounding country. It then bends 
to the south-east, past the bridge of Vidor, where Napoleon and 
Massena crossed in 1797, and flows through the gap between the 
Asolo hills and the wooded Montello. From Nervesa for the re- 
maining twenty-five miles to the sea it is a better defence — short, 
straight, and protected by the Montello on one flank, and the sea 
marshes on the other. The Piave is a strong line only towards 
its mouth, a weak and difhcult line in the centre, and no line at all 
in its upper glens.* Carnia and Cadore must be relinquished, 
and the Fourth Army brought back from those peaks and gorges, 
which it had won with such boldness and resolution through two 
arduous years, to hold a front from the Montello by the massif of 
Monte Grappa and across the Val Sugana to link up with the 
First Army in its old position on the Asiago plateau. While, 
therefore, the Duke of Aosta was struggling westward from the 
Tagliamento, de Robilant had fallen back from Cadore, and was 
moving with all haste towards the middle Piave. 

* Once before in history Austria had invaded Italy by way of Caporetto. 
This was in 1809, when the French, under Eugene Beauhamais, were forced by 
the Archduke Johann as far west as the Adige, though Napoleon hoped that 
they would stand on the Piave. The latter's victory at Eckmiihl relieved the 
situation, and sent the Archduke back over the frontier. Napoleon's corre- 
spondence of 1808 and 1809 contains appreciations of the strategic value of 
Caporetto, the Tagliamento, the Livenza, and the Piave, drawn from his 
recollections of the campaign of 1797. 



6o A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Nov. 

On Saturday, 3rd November, a German and a Hungarian divi- 
sion from Below's army forced the passage of the TagHamento at 
Pinzano, where the river leaves the. foothills, thereby cutting off 
the Italian troops and guns on the line between Tolmezzo and 
Gemona. Cadorna still held on to the middle and lower river, 
and on the 4th repulsed an enemy attempt to cross near San Vito. 
But Below's vanguards were already moving west along the edge 
of the hills, and on Tuesday, the 7th, the Tagliamento line was 
abandoned. The next stage was the Livenza — the old Liquentia 
— a deep, pellucid stream, but too narrow to retard the enemy. 
The pursuit was close and persistent, and already on the 6th the 
enemy cavalry were in action at Sacile, where the Treviso-Udine 
railway crosses the upper Livenza. The Italian line was now 
bent back heavily on its left, and, while the main force was still 
on the Livenza, the left wing was back on the upper Monticano, 
which enters the Livenza at Motta. The Motta crossing was held 
long enough to get the guns of the centre away, and on the 8th 
the Livenza was abandoned. By the loth Cadorna was every- 
where back on the Piave, and the retreat had ended. 

It had been conducted wholly by Italian troops, and the credit 
was Italy's alone. But the first news of the break at Caporetto 
had brought her Allies to her aid. On 26th October the French 
and British Governments agreed to reinforce Italy each with five 
divisions from the Western front. On the 30th the British Chief 
of the Imperial General Staff was at Treviso with Cadorna. Be- 
fore the end of October French divisions were crossing the fron- 
tier, and a French force, the 12th Corps, under General Fayolle, 
was preparing to take its place on the Italian front. A British 
contingent, the 14th Corps, under Sir Herbert Plumer, the com- 
mander of the Second Army, had come into being by loth No- 
vember. In the first days of November Mr. Lloyd George left 
London for Italy, with General Smuts, Sir William Robertson, 
and Sir Henry Wilson. They were joined in Paris by the Premier, 
M. Painleve — who on 12th September had succeeded M. Ribot 
— and General Foch ; and on Monday, 5th November, at the vil- 
lage of Rapallo, sixteen miles from Genoa, they met Orlando, 
Sonnino, and Alfieri. That conference was one of the most fruit- 
ful of the war. Out of it sprang the Allied Council at Versailles, 
which we shall consider later, and, indeed, the whole movement 
for a unified Western command. It settled the assistance which 
France and Britain were to give to their hard-pressed neighbour, 
and it resulted in vital changes in the Italian High Command. 



191 7] NEW ITALIAN DISPOSITIONS 6i 

Cadorna was transferred to Versailles, and his place as Comman- 
der-in-Chief taken by the NeapoHtan General Diaz, who had led 
with brilliant success the 23rd Corps in the Carso battles. Gen- 
eral Badoglio became his Chief of the General Staff. 

But the Allied reinforcements could not come into line at once, 
though the certainty of them simplified the problem and eased 
the mind of Italy as to her reserves, and the defence of the Piave 
for some weeks must be maintained by her alone. It was still 
uncertain whether the line was a possible one, and it was at first 
arranged that the British and French should take up ground on 
the hills north and south of Vicenza, in case it should be necessary 
to retire behind the Brenta. That the notion of any such retire- 
ment was presently given up was due partly to the sound strate- 
gical wisdom and resolution of General Plumer, and largely to the 
spirit of Orlando's Ministry, who refused to contemplate a with- 
drawal to the Adige or the Mincio, which would have involved the 
surrender of some of the most famous of Italian cities. 

The critical point on the Piave was the Montello height, which 
was, so to speak, a hinge between the northern front facing the hills 
and the river front covering Venice. If the Montello went, the 
bridge which carried the Treviso-Udine railway would go, and so 
would the crossing at the Vidor gap to the north. But on the 
whole front the most crucial point was the mass of Monte Grappa 
between the Piave and the Brenta, If it were carried, the enemy 
could debouch from the Brenta valley and turn the flank of the 
Piave defence. It was the threat from the north which occupied 
the mind of the new Commander-in-Chief, for the most gallant 
stand on the river line would be futile if the enemy broke down 
from the northern hills to the low country around Bassano. He 
had already begun to move in this direction. On 9th November, 
when the last of the Duke of Aosta's rearguards were fording 
the Piave, and when de Robilant's Fourth Army was hastening 
through Belluno, pressure began in the Val Sugana and on the 
Asiago plateau, and the remains of the village of Asiago fell once 
again into Austrian hands. 

On the nth de Robilant was in position from the Montello to 
the Brenta, and the Austrians, pushing down the upper Piave, 
past Feltre, had linked hands with their troops in the Val Sugana. 
The rain had begun again, and the soldiers on the Piave looking 
northward saw the high hills white with snow. It was a spectacle 
to cheer the soul of the High Command, for it lessened the risk 



62 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Nov. 

of that break out from the mountains which was their worst peril. 
The forces were now set for the culminating struggle — Pecori- 
Giraldi's First Army facing Scheuchensteuel's Austrian XL Army 
on the Asiago plateau, de Robilant's Fourth Army facing Kro- 
batin's Austrian X. Army and part of Below's XIV. Army from 
the Brenta to the Montello, the Duke of Aosta from the Montello 
to the sea opposed by Below and Boroevitch, Clearly de Robi- 
lant had far too long a front for a single army, and to hold it boys 
of seventeen and eighteeen were brought up from the depots and 
the garrisons, often after only a month's training. In the mo- 
ment of their country's agony they flung themselves into the des- 
perate breach. With a rhetoric which the greatness of the occa- 
sion justified and ennobled, d'Annunzio summoned these young 
levies of Italy to defend the Piave as the last bulwark of their 
land. 

"Are there in Italy other living rivers? I will not think of them. 
. . . Soldiers of the countryside, soldiers of the city, men of every 
kind, Italians from every province, forget all else for the moment, 
and remember only that this water is for us the water of life, regener- 
ative like that of baptism. Is there a torrent within hearing of your 
home? It is of this water. Is your farm bordered by a rivulet? It 
is of this water. Is there in your market-place a fountain playing? 
It is of this water. It runs beside the walls and past the doors, and 
through the streets of all the cities of Italy; it runs past the threshold 
of all our dwellings; it safeguards from the destroyer all our altars 
and all our hearths. Only with this water shall you quench the thirst 
of your womenfolk, your sons, your old people. Failing it, they must 
perish, and their end must be desolation. Do you understand? This 
river — which figures as a hero in the legends of Venice, which to-day 
stands heroic in the veneration of all Italians, this Piave — this river 
is the vital vein of our existence, the deep artery of the blood of our 
land. If it is pierced, our hearts must cease to beat." 

It was not till 4th December that Plumer and Fayolle took over 
the Montello sector facing Below, and so permitted de Robilant 
to concentrate on the Grappa. 

The points of danger, as we have seen, were the northern flank, 
between Asiago and the Piave, and the gate of the Montello ; but 
from some cause or other the enemy did not concentrate all his 
efforts there. The lure of Venice made him strike also direct 
against the lower Piave, where the Italian defences were by nature 
the strongest. One reason for this may be found in the character 
of his communications. In the plains they were excellent, but in 



1917] THE STRUGGLE ON THE PIAVE 63 

the hills he had but the one railway down the upper Adige valley, 
and the roads he had built for the 19 16 attack were now deep in 
snow. Nevertheless, the attempt offered superb strategic pros- 
pects. The wall of the Alps above the plain of Bassano is cut 
clean as with a knife. It runs in a scarp at an average height of 
some 5,000 feet, broken only by the trough of the Brenta. Be- 
hind it rises a second tier, which, west of the Brenta, forms the 
rim of the Asiago plateau. To understand the position it is neces- 
sary to keep this formation in mind. The Italian front occupied 
the edge of the second tier east and west of the Brenta, with the 
Grappa massif and Monte Tomba well inside their lines. If the 
enemy could force his way to the edge of the first tier, he com- 
manded the plains and had turned the Piave. 

On the night of Sunday, nth November, the Austrians attacked 
Monte Longaro, north-east of Asiago, but were held by the Alpini. 
Next day, after a heavy barrage, Boroevitch's forces succeeded 
in crossing the Piave at the Zenson bend, eighteen miles from the 
sea — the first bridgehead on the western bank secured by the 
enemy. On the 13th Longaro had fallen, and the fighting was at 
Monte Sisemol, a peak east of Asiago, on the very edge of the 
second tier. That day, too, no less than four attempts were made 
to cross the lower Piave, at Quero, Fenere, St. Dona, and Intesta- 
dura, while Hungarian battalions crossed the canalized stream at 
Grisolera, and made their way through the marshes to the old 
channel, the Vecchia Piave. On Wednesday, the 14th, the Ital- 
ian left was firm on the edge of the second tier, across the peak of 
Castelgomberto to Cismon, in the Brenta valley, but east it was 
forced by the loss of Monte Tomatico to descend to the first tier 
just above the Piave. Next day the pressure in the hills became 
stronger, and Cismon was lost. 

On Friday, the i6th, Boroevitch made a vigorous attempt to 
cross the Piave. He tried at two points, Folina and Fogare, north 
of where the Treviso line crossed the river at the Ponte di Piave, 
failing conspicuously at the first, but winning a bridgehead at the 
second. That same day the Austrians had a success in the hills, 
carrying Monte Prassolan, east of the Brenta. They had greatly 
strengthened their troops in this area, and on Sunday, the i8th, 
had won Quero, on the Piave, and forced part of the Italian front 
off the second tier of upland on to the first. It was now on Monte 
Tomba, on the very edge of the plains. The position was that on 
the lower Piave the enemy held two bridgeheads, but had not 
elbow-room to develop them ; while in the hills he was held on 



64 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Dec. -Jan. 

the second tier west of the Brenta, but had fought his way to the 
front tier at one point between that stream and the Piave. For 
the moment this little section of twelve miles was the critical part 
of the battle. 

The rest of November saw a desperate struggle from Asiago to 
the Piave, especially in the Monte Grappa quarter. Elsewhere 
little happened, for the natural difficulty of the lower Piave line, 
the stout resistance of the Italian marines in the marshes, and the 
constant shelling from monitors off the coast, made a crossing in 
force a forlorn enterprise for the enemy. But it was otherwise in 
the mountains, where, in spite of the snow, he made a resolute 
effort to reach the last rim of upland which would give him a de- 
cisive success. The struggle was carried on mainly by Austrian 
mountain troops and Hungarian divisions, and Below's Germans 
played small part in it. Blow after blow was delivered, alter- 
nately east and west of the Brenta, blows which were gallantly 
parried, though the weary Italian lines had slowly to give ground. 
In the first week of December it was clear that a great effort was 
maturing on the Asiago plateau, where, against a front of less than 
twelve miles, some 2,000 guns of all calibres were concentrated. 

The attack was launched, after a furious bombardment, on 5th 
December, two Austrian forces moving from the north-west and 
the north-east against the salient at Asiago, which had its apex at 
Castelgomberto. It succeeded in driving Pecori-Giraldi altogether 
off the second tier of hills back to the first tier ; but he still held 
Valstagna in the Brenta valley, and all but the top of the little 
Val Frenzela, which descends to it from the west. The enemy 
claimed 15,000 prisoners, for gallant companies of Alpini had held 
out on the lost peaks of Castelgomberto and Sisemol long after 
the line had retired. A week later, after a still greater massing 
of artillery, Krobatin attacked between the Brenta and the Piave. 
His aim was to win the debouchment of the Brenta valley by 
carrying the hills on the eastern side, and especially the passes 
of Caprile and Barretta, and the peak called Asolone, south of the 
latter. He struck on the 12th, and for three days the battle 
lasted ; but by Saturday, the 15th, he had achieved little beyond 
reaching the summit of the Caprile pass. This did, indeed, give 
him a certain advantage by facilitating his movement of troops 
in the Brenta valley. On the i8th he succeeded in securing most 
of Monte Asolone, and farther east he held the lower of the two 
summits of Monte Tomba. This gave him positions outflanking 
Monte Grappa, and the possession of Asolone further endangered 



TKC ITALIAN RETREAT TO THE PIAVE, 

{Fa.^rtg p. 64.) 




V, 



t: 



.u>- 




Mif 



I9I7-I8] THE FIGHT IN THE MOUNTAINS 65 

Valstagna on the Brenta. He was endeavouring to advance down 
the Val Sugana by taking forward steps alternately on each side 
of it. 

On 22nd December the Italians counter-attacked at Monte 
Asolone, and recovered all its south slopes. On the 23rd they had 
to face another dangerous thrust south of Asiago to the left of the 
Frenzela glen, where the enemy took Monte di Val Bella, the Col 
del Rosso, and Monte Melago, which brought him nearer to the 
rim of the heights. A counter-attack recovered the last point, 
but on Christmas Day the position was still anxious. On both 
sides of the Brenta the enemy was getting terribly near the plains. 
Before the close of the year, however, the situation was eased. 
The French left had been moved west of the Piave to assist de 
Robilant in the Grappa region, and on 30th December, supported 
by British batteries, it attacked the eastern shoulder of Monte 
Tomba, and won it, together with over a thousand prisoners. 

With the new year the prospect steadily brightened. The wild 
weather in the hills handicapped the enemy effort, and gradually 
the German divisions were removed, since, in the view of Luden- 
dorff , a decision could no longer be hoped for, and he had need of 
them elsewhere. The long front of the Piave was quiet, with a 
swollen stream running at a speed of sixteen miles an hour before 
it. In the British section there were many adventurous raids, and 
in the first days of January 1918 the Duke of Aosta cleared the 
Austrians from the bridgehead at Zenson. On 14th January de 
Robilant made a successful attack on Monte Asolone, and before 
the end of the month Plumer had extended his right so as to ease 
the Third Army in its task. On 28th January Pecori-Giraldi 
attacked the Col del Rosso and Monte di Val Bella, and took 2,500 
prisoners. With this episode the campaign which began at Capo- 
retto may be said to have reached its close. It had taken heavy 
toll of Italy's strength, but it had failed to show that decisive 
victory which for some weeks had seemed inevitable. The Ger- 
man High Command had turned its mind from Austria and her 
troubles to a greater plan in a more vital field, and Conrad von 
Hoetzendorff and Boroevitch were left once more to their own 
devices. 

The retreat to the Piave had various direct and calculable re- 
sults. It shook to its foundations Italy's military strength, and 
deprived her in a single month of some 800,000 effectives* and 

* The official estimate was, in round figures, 10,000 dead, 30,000 wounded, 
265,000 prisoners, 350,000 missing and deserters, and 150,000 sick. 



66 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Jan. 

great stocks of war material which could with difficulty be re- 
placed. It gave famished Austria certain immediate supplies 
from the conquered lands, and fanned once again into a modest 
flame her flickering belligerent zeal. It proved to the German 
High Command the merit of their new tactics, and encouraged 
them to try them in a greater venture. All these were solid assets 
for the Central Powers. Yet in a real sense the disaster brought 
more gain than loss to the Allies. It welded Italy into a closer 
Union, and roused that ancient and untameable spirit which was 
one of her legacies from Rome. It compelled reforms in her com- 
mands, and it forced her Government to give its attention to the 
"civil front," which had been weakened from neglect and treason. 
The splendid work of the American Red Cross, which began after 
Caporetto, was a practical proof of Allied goodwill, and did much 
to ease the lot of the soldiers' families ; while the spectacle of 
French and British divisions on the Piave brought home for the first 
time to many Italians the magnitude of the alliance in which they 
were joined. More, her sudden success laid bare the true heart 
of Germany, and compelled all but the grossest self-deceivers 
among the Allies to realize the hollowness of the alleged German 
conversion to democracy, discredited what was left of Kuhlmann's 
"peace atmosphere," and forced a recognition of the fundamental 
conflict of creeds between the antagonists — a recognition which 
the events of the next six months were to put beyond the sphere 
of doubt. Most of all, Caporetto and its sequel brought to an end 
the old isolation of each Western ally. The problem, both mili- 
tary and economic, was now seen to be single and indivisible ; and, 
though months were to elapse before the machinery was perfected 
and a yet bitterer lesson in the fruits of disunion was to be learned, 
it is from the Conference of Rapallo that we can date the true 
change of heart. Thenceforward, in theory at any rate, there 
was but one front between the North Sea and the Adriatic, a 
single exchequer and a single granary. 



CHAPTER LXXXVII 

THE MESOPOTAMIAN SITUATION AND THE 
FALL OF JERUSALEM 

April- December ii, 1917 

The Summer of 191 7 in Mesopotamia — The Capture of RamadieandTekrit— - 
Death of Sir Stanley Maude — AUenby's Problem in Palestine — Capture of 
Beersheba — Fall of Gaza — Capture of Jaffa — Advance into the Judaean 
Hills — AUenby enters Jerusalem. 

At the close of April 191 7 the Turkish 13th and i8th Corps had 
been driven back on divergent lines, the position at Bagdad was 
secure, and the growing heats of a Mesopotamian summer brought 
campaigning for the time being to an end. Leaving sufficient 
troops to guard the positions won, Sir Stanley Maude withdrew 
the bulk of his forces into reserve, distributing them in camps along 
the Tigris banks, where they might have the benefit of the occa- 
sional river breezes. The health of the army was excellent ; sup- 
plies and transport had been brought to a high pitch of perfection ; 
it was possible to arrange for extensive leave to India ; and the 
four months' inaction was employed in resting and reorganizing 
the men who had fought the Bagdad campaign and in making plans 
for the autumn. 

As the weeks passed it became probable that the advent of the 
cooler weather might bring with it a serious enemy offensive. The 
demoralization of Russia was affecting the whole Eastern front. 
Much of it was already fluid, and Russia's weakness in Transcaucasia 
meant the opening of the gate for Turk and German into Central 
Asia, and the fanning of the flames of disorder through the length 
and breadth of Persia. Moreover, it appeared that Germany was 
not minded to let Mesopotamia slip from the control of the Central 
Powers. Falkenhayn was at Aleppo forming the new Yildirim 
army group, and his first object was the recovery of Bagdad. 
The brilliance of his recent successes did not conceal from Sir Stanley 

67 



68 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [July 

Maude the fact that his strategical position was not an easy one. 
He was nearly seven hundred miles up the Tigris from the sea. 
On his right flank he had the uncertain factor of Persia ; in front 
an entrenched enemy drawing reinforcements from Mosul by the 
Tigris valley ; and on his left the Euphrates valley, with its caravan 
route to Aleppo. Happily, the jealous desert circumscribed the 
area of conflict, and therefore the area of surprise. But, in view 
of the unplumbed possibilities of disaster inherent in the Russian 
situation, it behoved the British commander to set his house most 
warily in order. 

The summer was not without its minor incidents. Early in 
June Baratov found that his Russian contingent on the Diala could 
not endure the heat of that sandy triangle, and fell back over the 
passes beyond Karind towards Kermanshah. This event forced 
Maude to reoccupy Beled Ruz on the canal which enters the Diala 
at Mansuriya. More important was the position on the Euphrates, 
where, after our occupation of Feludja on 19th March, the Turkish 
garrison had retired twenty -five miles upstream to Ramadie. The 
town lies on the right shore of the river, and the Turkish com- 
mander, Ahmed Bey, occupied an entrenched position covering it 
on the east and south-east with a force bf something over 1,000 
Turkish bayonets and 2,000 Arab tribesmen. Our position at 
Feludja was not a happy one, for the advance to Samara on the 
Tigris meant that our centre had been pushed forward far in 
advance of our flanks. It was accordingly decided to bring 
up our left wing; and with this object, on 8th July, we 
occupied the high ground known as Sinn el Zibban, on the left 
bank of the Euphrates, some twelve miles beyond Feludja, where 
the Saklawie Canal, coming from the Akkar Kuf lake at Bagdad, 
enters the river. 

There, on the loth, the column assembled for the attack on 
Ramadie. The Turks were unprepared, and they left unoccupied 
the high ground of Mushaid, four miles east of Ramadie, which was 
the true key of its defence. By 4 a.m. on the nth our column was 
in touch with the enemy, and by 8.15 that morning had driven 
in his advanced posts. But the main attack could not be delivered. 
A blinding dust storm sprang up, observation became impossible, 
and that night the British withdrew to Mushaid, where there was 
a little shelter. Next day it was clear that an abnormal heat wave 
was beginning, and the column waited only long enough to make 
certain that Ahmed Bey did not meditate a retreat, before falling 
back to Sinn el Zibban on the 14th. A mob of Arab tribesmen 



1917] CAPTURE OF RAMADIE 69 

who ventured to follow was severely cut up by our light-armoured 
motor batteries. 

In August there was another small operation. Our line had 
been drawn in on the Diala, and the retreat of Baratov had em- 
boldened the enemy. He was pressing south-west of Shahraban, 
which we no longer held, and it became necessary to check him 
by reoccupying the place. On the night of the i8th a column 
moved from Bakuba up the great Persian road, and another from 
Beled Ruz along the canal. On the 20th Shahraban was taken 
with little opposition, the enemy retiring to his old fastness of the 
Jebel Hamrin. - 

With September came cooler weather, and plans were matured 
for the attack on Ramadie. Ahmed Bey had now been considerably 
reinforced, and he no longer neglected the Mushaid ridge, which 
runs north and south on the right bank of the Euphrates some 
sixty feet above the plain. It was a strong position, for its right 
was protected by the Habbaniyeh lake, a large, brackish pan which 
British engineers, working there in 1914, had designed as a storage 
reservoir for the flood water of the river. Three miles behind the 
Mushaid heights lay the Turkish main position, running in a semi- 
circle around Ramadie, first along the eastern bank of the canal 
between the Euphrates and the Habbaniyeh lake, and then along 
some sandy downs to the Aziziyeh Canal, which leaves the river 
a mile west of Ramadie. Sir Stanley Maude's plan was to turn 
the southern end of the Mushaid ridge, cross the Habbaniyeh Canal, 
and make his principal assault upon Ramadie from the south, while 
his cavalry, moving west of the Aziziyeh Canal, flung themselves 
across the Aleppo road, and blocked the Turkish communications 
with Hit. He so distributed his troops as to suggest that his main 
attack would be upon the enemy's left on the Euphrates, and for 
this purpose he had the river bridged at Madhij and a road made 
up the left bank. The British starting-point was Madhij, some 
eight miles from the Turkish outposts. At six o'clock on the evening 
of 27th September two infantry columns and a cavalry force moved 
out for five miles, and the infantry during the night advanced a 
further two miles, while a detachment skirted the northern shore of 
the Habbaniyeh lake, and succeeded in turning the southern flank 
of the Mushaid ridge. At dawn the enemy, seeing what had hap- 
pened, evacuated Mushaid, which he shelled heavily in the belief 
that the British had occupied it. Maude, however, was moving 
south of the ridge, and at 7 a.m. dispatched the cavalry in a wide 
sweeping movement to the south and west. They crossed the 



70 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

Habbaniyeh Canal, kept well south of Ramadie, crossed the Azizi- 
yeh Canal, and were presently to the west of the town astride the 
Aleppo road. 

The British were now in position, and their left attacked the 
Turkish southern front, which held a low pebbly ridge some seven- 
teen feet above the plain. The enemy was driven off the ridge after 
hard fighting, but at the same time the right column, which had 
been passed in rear of the left column, was securing ground on the 
Aziziyeh ridge, south-west of the town. The position at nightfall 
was that the enemy was hemmed in on all sides except on the 
north, where ran the Euphrates ; but over the Euphrates he had 
no bridge. His only chance was to break through by a counter- 
attack before the net was drawn tight. At three o'clock on the 
morning of the 29th Ahmed Bey made his effort to escape. He 
tried the cavalry screen on the west. The fight lasted till dawn, 
but the Turks never got within fifty yards of the cavalry trenches. 
At 6.15 a.m. the British infantry attacked again on the south and 
south-east, and drove the enemy from the ridge. The 39th Garh- 
walis, at 7.30, had seized the bridge where the Aleppo road crosses 
the Aziziyeh Canal, and about the same hour the 90th Punjabis 
entered Ramadie. The cavalry on the west, expecting another 
attack, saw Turkish masses approaching, and to their amazement 
observed white flags fluttering in their ranks. By 11 a.m. the 
whole enemy force had surrendered, including the commander 
Ahmed Bey, who had been fighting on the Euphrates since the start 
of the campaign. 

Ramadie was a perfect example of an encircling operation 
carried out with dash and precision. It was the only important 
action on the Euphrates since Nasiriyeh in July 1915, and it yielded 
the largest number of prisoners of any single battle so far won 
by the British in Mesopotamia. Our captures included 3,454 
Turks, of whom 145 were ofBcers, 13 guns, 12 machine guns, 2 
armed launches, 2 barges, and large quantities of arms and stores. 

So much for the left of the British front. On the day on which 
Ramadie was fought the right wing pushed out from Beled Ruz, 
and occupied Mendeli, capturing 300 baggage camels and driving 
the Turkish garrison eastward into the hills. The Turks had used 
the place as a supply station, and it was of some strategical im- 
portance, since it was linked by a mountain path with Harunabad 
on the Persian trunk road, and was therefore a possible base for 
a flank attack. During October Sir Stanley Maude continued to 
improve this side of his position. Between i8th and 20th October 



191 7] CAPTURE OF TEKRIT 71 

he drove the enemy from the Diala into the Jebel Hamrin, and 
occupied the frontier town of Kizil Robat. The Turkish 13th 
Corps was forced to retreat towards Kifri, and the British flanks 
were clear for a fresh advance up the Tigris. 

The Turkish i8th Corps lay entrenched at Tekrit. On 23rd 
October columns from that corps moved down both banks of the 
river, approaching Samara, but fell back on the appearance of 
British troops. On 2nd November our advance guard found the 
enemy in position on the left bank of the river, opposite a place 
called Dur, twenty miles above Samara. After a short engage- 
ment the Turks fell back upon Tekrit, the birthplace of Saladin 
the Great, a town some forty miles from Samara, and the main 
advanced base of the Turkish Army of Mesopotamia. On Monday, 
5th November, we came in touch with the strong enemy position 
there. At our first attack we carried the first two lines of trenches, 
and beat off a counter-attack, while our cavalry worked round 
the enemy's right flank, and our guns from across the river shelled 
his communications with the north. In the afternoon we attacked 
again, and the cavalry on our left charged into the trenches and 
cut down many of the retreating Turks. That evening the enemy 
blew up his dumps, set fire to his stores, and retreated at his best 
speed, and on the morning of 6th November we occupied Tekrit. 

Maude was now only some hundred miles from Mosul ; but 
the river beyond Tekrit was full of rapids, so that water transport 
was not possible in a further advance. His next step must there- 
fore be to clear the new Turkish advanced posts of Kifri and Kirkuk, 
seventy miles east of Tekrit. Here a much used road to Mosul, 
traversing the foothills of the Persian border, ran eastward of the 
swampy region where the northern spurs of the Jebel Hamrin 
flank the marshes of the Shatt-el-Adhaim. His victories had 
given him a strong position from the point of view both of supplies 
and of strategy, for the enemy had no good advanced bases from 
which Falkenhayn could launch his promised counter-stroke. 
Whatever might be coming from Aleppo, the British commander 
could await it with some confidence ; and if nothing came, the 
British occupation of enemy soil was growing stronger day by day. 
Indeed by mid-October Allenby's threat in Palestine had con- 
vinced the German Staff that the recovery of Bagdad was im- 
possible unless the British were driven back to the Sinai desert, 
and so far from reinforcements arriving on the Tigris men 
and guns were being withdrawn from Irak. The road to Mosul 
was all but open. 



72 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Nov. 

But Maude was not destined to reap the full fruit of that which 
he had so wisely sown. On the evening of Sunday, i8th November, 
he died suddenly of cholera, the result of drinking a cup of native 
milk which his courtesy forbade him to refuse. His death was a 
heavy blow to the Army of Mesopotamia and to the British cause. 
In little more than a year he had sprung into fame, and his reputa- 
tion was the most valuable which a commander can acquire — that 
of one who did not blunder, whose heart never failed him, who was 
as patient and methodical in conceiving a plan as he was swift in 
executing it, who cared most zealously for the welfare of his men. 
Success followed his banner because he had taken pains to ensure it. 
His personal character was simple and kindly, and he was both 
loved and trusted by all who worked with him. These have happily 
been the characteristics of many British generals, and Maude was 
the type of soldier which it is the peculiar glory of his nation to 
produce. He was so modest and unrhetorical that it was only 
the tragic shortness of his career that made the world realize its 
brilliance. He had taken over the Army of Mesopotamia at a 
time when it was dispirited by failure and distraught by mismanage- 
ment. He had made it one of the best organized and most efficient 
of British forces, and in the face of immense difficulties he had 
led it continually to victory. Indeed the operations at Sanna-i-yat 
and Shumran in February 191 7 must rank with Allenby's turning 
movement on Esdraelon in the following year as the most perfect 
British achievements in manoeuvre battles during the campaign. 
If we would realize the magnitude of the war, let us compare the 
popular reputation which attended his success with that which 
he would have won had the campaign on the Tigris been the 
only mihtary enterprise of Britain. He had done more than 
Wolseley had done in the course of a long life ; and Kut and 
Bagdad were far greater achievements than Omdurman. Had 
he fought his battles twenty years earlier he would have had 
the prestige in the popular mind which fell to Roberts and 
Kitchener ; but so vast was now the scale of British operations 
that he ranked with the British people as only one of many 
capable commanders. 

The problem in Palestine was not unlike that in Mesopotamia. 
Much had been won, but as yet neither security nor any decisive 
success; and Falkenhayn was at Aleppo with orders to restore 
to Turkey her lost territory. If the British did not advance, they 
would certainly not be permitted to remain where they were. 



1 917] ALLENBY'S PROBLEM 73 

Two facts, however, simplified Sir Edmund Allenby's task as com- 
pared with that of Sir Stanley Maude. He had a safer position 
both to defend and to advance from, for the railway from Egypt 
was close at his heels, and his left flank was guarded by the sea, 
where British warships could operate. Again, he had before him 
a tangible and practicable objective. Mosul was far from Bagdad, 
and its capture would have complicated rather than relieved Maude's 
position, since it would have been all but impossible to hold it. 
But Jerusalem was near ; if won, there was no reason why it should 
not be retained ; and its capture would resound throughout the 
inhabited earth. Its military value might be small, but the moral 
value of its occupation was incalculable. Every consideration 
urged Sir Edmund Allenby to press on towards the cradle city of 
Christendom. 

He had taken over from Sir Archibald Murray the command 
of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force at the end of June, and had 
increased it to the seven infantry and three mounted divisions 
which he estimated as his requirements, by the completion of the 
75th Division and the bringing of the loth and 60th Divisions 
from Salonika. His first business was to reconnoitre. The enemy 
positions lay from Beersheba north-west to the sea at Gaza, along 
the higher ground north of the Wadi Ghuzze, a front of some thirty 
miles. Gaza and its neighbouring villages had been converted 
into a strong fortress, and the rest of the line was a series of groups 
of fortified redoubts — at Khirbet Sihan, at Atawineh, at Hareira, 
and at Beersheba itself, the groups being on an average a little over 
a mile apart, save that four and a half miles intervened between 
Beersheba and Hareira. The British front was in close touch with 
the Turks at Gaza, but in the centre and on the right was separated 
from them by some miles of waterless desert. The enemy had 
greatly strengthened his defences since the spring battles. He had 
built branch lines running west from the Central Palestine Railway 
to Deir Sined, north of Gaza, which gave him good lateral communi- 
cations ; and he had so elaborated and connected his strong points 
that his front was now practically continuous between his two 
flanking fortresses. The Turkish defences which faced Allenby 
were many times more formidable than the loose and scattered 
lines against which Murray had moved in March. But there 
were certain weaknesses. The demands for the reinforcements 
necessary to hold Beersheba were refused till too late because of 
the projected Bagdad expedition ; and the Turks believed that 
Allenby's plan was for a landing on the coast behind their right 



74 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

flank, with the result that the chief defensive work was done in the 
Gaza sector and the main reserves concentrated there.* 

A frontal attack on such a position was not likely to succeed ; 
nor could the line be turned on the western flank, for there was not 
space to manoeuvre between Gaza and the sea. But as Allenby 
considered the enemy front, he observed that it had certain gaps. 
One was between Ali Muntar and Sihan, but the most notable was 
that between Hareira and Beersheba. The latter town was virtually 
a detached and separate defensive system. If the enemy position 
was to be turned, it could only be on the east, on the line from 
Hareira to Sheria on the railway. I f that enterprise were successful , 
the difficult ridge running south-east from Gaza would be taken in 
rear, and the British would be operating against an open flank. 
But to gain a starting-point for such a movement, the isolated 
fortress of Beersheba must first be mastered. 

In the spring Sir Archibald Murray had considered the possi- 
bilities of this plan, and had rejected it on the ground that it would 
bring his communications parallel to his front. But in the mean- 
time we had improved our line of supply, and the desert railway 
had been continued first to Shellal and then towards Karm, while 
lines were in process of construction from Camli, the extreme point 
on the British right, to El Buggar, and on our left from Deir el Belah 
to Wadi Ghuzze. The main problem before Allenby was water and 
transport. There was good and abundant water at Beersheba, as 
also at Sheria and Hareira, but nowhere else on the immediate 
battleground ; and there was also the danger that the enemy might 
destroy the wells in case of a retreat. He had, therefore, to be 
prepared to supply his troops with water from his own bases for a 
period which might amount to a week or more. Again, there were 
no good roads south of the line Gaza-Beersheba, so motor and 
wheeled transport was unreliable. Camels were the chief stand-by, 
and the 30,000 we possessed were all allotted to the right wing, 
which might have to operate twenty miles or more beyond railhead. 

The first step was the capture of Beersheba, and for this Allenby 
proposed an encircling movement not unlike that adopted at the 
First Battle of Gaza. The mean little town, which seems an oasis 
only to the traveller whose eyes are weary of the red rocks of the 
Sinai desert, lies below the southern end of the massif of Hebron. 
From the hills in the east and north-east descend numerous deep- 

* Since the Second Battle of Gaza serious epidemics, due to insufficient food, 
had raged in the Turkish armies, so that about a quarter of tlieir strength was 
continuously in hospital. 



191 7] ATTACK ON BEERSHEBA 75 

cut water-courses, dry in summer, but in winter filled with roaring 
torrents. Of these, the most notable is the Wadi Saba, coming 
down from the east, south of which, towards the El Auja railway, 
lies Hill 1070. Allenby proposed to attack the south and south- 
east defences between the Khalasa road and the Wadi Saba with 
the6oth (London Territorial) and 74th Divisions, while the Imperial 
Camel Corps and part of the 53rd Division made a holding attack 
north of the Wadi. The cavalry were to be sent in a wide circuit 
to cover the town from the east and north, and get astride the 
main road to Hebron. In the meantime Gaza was to be heavily 
bombarded both from land and sea, as if an attack were preparing 
in that quarter. He could not hope to move his striking force 
unobserved over ten miles of open country, but he hoped to per- 
suade the enemy that the movement was only a feint, and that 
the real attack was against Gaza. 

On 27th October the Turks made a reconnaissance in force 
towards Karm, cut up some yeomanry outposts which covered our 
railway construction, and were driven back by the arrival of the 
53rd Division. That day the shelling of Gaza began, and on the 
30th the bombardment was assisted by British and French war- 
ships from the sea. On the evening of the 30th the force designed 
for Beersheba was concentrated at its starting-point, and in 
the bright moonlight the march to the battle position was com- 
pleted. In order to "prepare" our attack on the main defences, 
and to bring up field guns for wire-cutting. Hill 1070 must first be 
carried. After a short but very heavy bombardment this was 
rushed by the Londoners by 8.45 a.m. on the morning of the 31st, 
and the guns came into position. 

At 12.15 the 60th and 74th Divisions attacked the main defences 
between the Wadi Saba and the Khalasa road. It was a fine 
performance, and with singularly few casualties the whole position 
had fallen by one o'clock, with the exception of a few redoubts 
which held out till the evening. Meantime the cavalry, after a 
night ride of more than thirty miles, had in the early morning reached 
the high ground five miles east of the town. Below them lay the 
open and treeless plain between Beersheba and the skirts of the hills. 
This ground was commanded by the hill Tel es Saba, north of the 
Wadi Saba, a place i ,000 feet high, which was defended on the south 
by the steep banks of a ravine. It was strongly held, but about 
3.30 in the afternoon New Zealand and Australian horse had 
carried it, and were clearing up the German machine-gun posts 
between it and the town. An Australian brigade had been sent 



76 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Nov. 

north to secure the hill of Bir es Sakaty, on the Hebron road. This 
was accomplished by one o'clock, and escape was denied to the 
enemy in that quarter. All through the afternoon fighting went 
on in the open plain, where the main force of the cavalry, working 
in small bodies, was endeavouring to close in from the east. The 
end came just before the dark fell, when the 4th Australian Light 
Horse Brigade, leaping the enemy trenches, galloped into Beer- 
sheba, and the place fell. The garrison * was put out of action, 
some 2,000 prisoners and thirty guns were taken, and the way 
was now prepared for a blow on the enemy's exposed left flank 
between Hareira and Sheria. Fortunately the enemy had been 
so taken by surprise that he had failed to destroy more than two 
of the Beersheba wells. 

The next stage was the frontal attack on Gaza, designed as a 
subsidiary operation to attract the Turkish reserves to that sector. 
The line of attack was that which had been entrusted to the 53rd 
Division in the battle of 17th April. The objective was the 6,000 
yards front from Sheikh Hasan on the sea, 2,500 yards north-west 
of Gaza, to the ridge which was called Umbrella Hill,t 2,000 yards 
south-west of the town. It was an ambitious objective, for there 
was a long space between our front lines and those of the enemy, 
and the sand dunes of the coast made heavy going. The first step 
was to take Umbrella Hill, which commanded the ground to the 
west, and at eleven o'clock on the night of ist November this was 
carried by part of the 52 nd Division of Scottish Lowland Territorials. 
At 3 a.m. on the morning of the 2nd, in the darkness before dawn, 
the main attack was delivered. It was completely successful : 
almost all the objectives were gained ; so far from the enemy 
being able to reinforce his left flank, one of his reserve divisions had 
to be sent to Gaza ; and the capture of Sheikh Hasan had given us 
a position outflanking the town on the west. 

All was now ready for the major operations in the east ; but 
water and transport difficulties compelled Allenby to move more 
slowly than he had hoped. On the morning of 1st November the 
53rd Division and the Camel Corps advanced into the hills north 
of Beersheba, with the object of securing the flank of the main 
attack on the line Sheria-Hareira, while mounted troops took the 
Hebron road towards Dhaberiyeh, in the hope of finding water and 

* It was mainly the 27th Division, an Arab formation, said to be the worst 
in the Turkish service. 

t Umbrella Hill was about 500 yards north of the British position on Sam- 
son's Ridge. 



191 7l THE LAST BATTLE OF GAZA 77 

securing the new motor road from Sheria. That night the 53rd 
held a line from Towal Abu Jerwal, six miles north of Beersheba, 
to four miles north-east of Abu Irgeig, on the main railway ; and 
Abu Irgeig itself was occupied by the loth Division. The cavalry 
was meantime in conflict with the enemy farther north round the 
hill and wadi of Khuweilfeh. As we advanced in that direction 
we found the Turks strongly posted, and their forces increasing. 
On the 4th and 5th they did their utmost to drive our flank guard 
back upon Beersheba ; and by the evening of the 5th the best part 
of three Turkish divisions had been identified around Khuweilfeh, 
while more infantry and the bulk of the Turkish cavalry were 
farther north towards the Hebron road. All the available enemy 
reserves were allotted to Fevzi Pasha, who with the VH. Army 
held this front. But Allenby refused to allow the threat on his 
flank to divert him from his main scheme. "The country north 
of Beersheba," he wrote, "was exceedingly rough and hilly, and 
very little water was to be found there. Had the enemy succeeded 
in drawing considerable forces against him in that area, the result 
might easily have been an indecisive fight (for the terrain was very 
suitable to their methods of defence), and my own striking force 
would probably have been made too weak effectively to break the 
enemy's centre in the neighbourhood of Sheria-Hareira. This 
might have resulted in our gaining Beersheba, but failing to do more 
— in which case Beersheba would only have been an incubus of 
the most inconvenient kind." He prepared to attack at once the 
main position at Kauwukah and Rushdi, which covered the Sheria- 
Hareira line. 

During the night of the 5th the troops of assault were well 
west of the railway, and before dawn were in position. The battle 
plan was for the loth, 60th, and 74th Divisions to attack on the 
British left towards Kauwukah, while yeomanry advanced on the 
right towards Sheria. On the extreme right flank the 53rd Divi- 
sion was to move on Tel el Khuweilfeh. The troops attacked on 
the 6th at dawn, and Allenby's boldness was justified. By midday 
most of the objectives had been won, Kauwukah and Rushdi were 
taken, and Hareira entered. By the evening the yeomanry were 
in Sheria station ; and the 53rd Division, assisted by the Camel 
Corps, had carried Tel el Khuweilfeh after severe fighting. Long 
before the dark fell the cavalry had ridden northward, with orders 
to occupy Huj and Jemmamah. 

That night the British left moved again upon Gaza, which for 
the past nine days had been under a continuous bombardment. 



78 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Nov. 

They found little resistance. At Outpost Hill and Middlesex Hill 
and AH Muntar, where in April our advance had been stayed, there 
was nothing but thin rearguards. The 54th Division on the left, 
the 52nd in the centre, the 75th on the right, together with the 
French and Italian detachments, had an open road before them, 
though Turkish batteries were still firing from Beit Hanun and 
Atawineh. By the evening of the 7th the 52nd Division, passing 
to the British left, had pushed ten miles up the coast, and seized 
the north bank of the Wadi Hesi, thereby preventing the enemy 
from making a stand on that line, while our cavalry were engaging 
the Turkish rearguards at Beit Hanun. 

Gaza had fallen, not to assault, but to far-sighted and method- 
ical strategy. At comparatively small cost Allenby had rolled up 
the Turkish line from the left, and compelled it to a general retreat. 
The enemy had suffered some 15,000 casualties, including the loss 
of over 5,000 prisoners. There were many rearguard actions. It 
was not till the morning of the 7th that the hill of Tel el Sheria 
fell, and that night the Turkish detachment which had held Ata- 
wineh made good its escape. There was a sharp encounter near 
Huj, where squadrons of yeomanry captured twelve guns. Our 
airmen, who had done invaluable work throughout the battle, 
reported that the enemy was in full retreat, and, if hard pressed, 
was too demoralized to offer much resistance. The position, in 
the words of the official dispatch, was, that " operations had reached 
the stage of a direct pursuit by as many troops as could be supplied 
so far in front of railhead. The problem, in fact, became one of 
supply rather than of manoeuvre." 

It was a problem sufficiently hard ; for water, where it existed, 
was in deep wells, and the enemy had damaged the machinery, so 
that its supply to troops was slow and difficult. But speed was 
urgent, if the British were to reap the fruits of their victory. The 
Turkish VIII. Army, under Kress von Kressenstein, was retreating 
north along the Philistian plain. If Allenby could reach in good 
time Junction Station, where the Jerusalem line left the main 
railway to Damascus, he would cut off the Jerusalem garrison 
from its communications with the rest of the Turkish forces. The 
Turkish left, Fevzi's VII. Army, which had been driven back to- 
wards Hebron, hung on the wing of our advance ; but, though it 
made several demonstrations, it was too weak to be capable of 
serious mischief. The Imperial Camel Corps was a sufficient flank 
guard in that direction. We were moving far from railhead, we 
had a slender force for so great an undertaking, and our problem 



1917] THE MARCH TO THE NORTH 79 

of supply grew more acute with every mile of advance. But we 
had a signal advantage in the demoralization of the enemy. 

On the 9th the Lowland Scots occupied Ascalon, the ruins of 
that city which had been the last conquest of Richard Coeur-de- 
Lion, and which in its great days under the Khalifs had been called 
the "Bride of Syria," for the fairness of its palaces and gardens. 
On the loth our line ran from Hamameh, four miles north of As- 
calon, to the bend of the Central Palestine railway north-east of 
El Feluja. It was now apparent that the enemy resistance was 
stiffening, and that the dash for Junction Station would not be 
unresisted. Whatever in the Turkish armies could be induced to 
fight had been brought up to stop our progress. The enemy held 
the line of Wadi Sukereir, with his centre at El Kustineh, and his 
left at Beit Jebrin. The weather was very hot, with the scorch- 
ing khamsin blowing from the inland deserts ; our troops were 
thirty-five miles from their railhead ; and the numerous wadis and 
the sandy roads made marching arduous for men who had in the 
past fortnight fought many battles. Still we crept on, our left 
on the coast moving fastest, since the roads there were better, 
until on the morning of 13th November we were prepared to strike 
for Junction Station, and the eastward wheel began. The enemy's 
right flank was already all but turned, and his troops lay on a front 
of twenty miles from El Kubeibeh to Beit Jebrin, the right half 
being parallel to and five miles in advance of the section of the rail- 
way between Ramleh and Junction Station. The orientation of 
the opposing fronts was now changing from that of west to east 
to that of north to south. 

The attack of the 52nd Division on the 13th, assisted by a 
dashing yeomanry charge, drove the enemy from Katrah (Cedron) 
and El Mughar, with a loss of 1,100 prisoners. That night we lay 
a mile west of Junction Station, and next morning the place was in 
our hands. The main objective had been brilliantly attained, and 
Sir Edmund Allenby's words describe a signal achievement in 
open warfare: "The enemy's army had now been broken into 
two separate parts, which retired north and east respectively, and 
were reported to consist of small scattered groups rather than 
formed bodies of any size. In fifteen days our force had advanced 
sixty miles on its right and about forty on its left. It had driven 
a Turkish army of nine infantry divisions and one cavalry division 
out of a position in which it had been entrenched for six months, 
and had pursued it, giving battle whenever it attempted to stand, 
and inflicting on it losses amounting, probably, to nearly two- 



8o A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Nov. 

thirds of the enemy's original effectives. Over 9,000 prisoners,' 
about 80 guns, more than 100 machine guns and very large quan- 
tities of ammunition and other stores had been captured." 

Jerusalem was now directly threatened, and Turk and German 
alike made frantic efforts to save it. Enver came from Con- 
stantinople, and departed after haranguing his defeated generals. 
Falkenhayn came from Aleppo, found he could do nothing, and 
returned to Nablus (Shechem) to watch events. Allenby con- 
tinued his advance with his 21st Corps on abroad front, pivoting 
somewhat on his right. His first step was to seize Jaffa, and his 
left wing pressed along the low range called the Shephelah, the 
western foothills of the Judsean highlands, and the old "debateable 
ground between Israel and the Philistines, between the Maccabees 
and the Syrians, between Saladin and the Crusaders." * There, 
on the 14th, at the village of Abu Shusheh — the ancient Gezer — 
the Turkish rearguard made a brief stand. It was driven in next 
morning, and mounted troops occupied Ramleh and Ludd — the 
latter that Lydda where St. George of England is fabled to have 
suffered martyrdom. Next day, the i6th, Jaffa (Joppa) was 
occupied without opposition. 

Allenby now made a bold decision. Hd had originally intended 
to wait till the improvement of his communications enabled him 
to collect all his forces before turning into the Judaean hills. He now 
resolved to attack at once with what he had got — one mounted and 
two infantry divisions, leaving one infantry and one mounted 
division to protect his communications. He believed that 
the tide was with him, and he determined to take it at the flow. 
The enemy had been split in two, and there was no line on which 
he could unite nearer than the Tul Keram-Nablus position. If 
he had decided on that line he would probably evacuate Jeru- 
salem. But before we could advance upon the capital certain 
steps must be taken. The finest troops in the world cannot march 
seventy miles in nine days, fighting all the way, without needing 
rest. Again, we had outrun our supplies, and time must be allowed 
for the railway behind us to be pushed forward to a reasonable 
distance. Finally, Allenby had to make his position secure. The 
west side of the Judsean uplands consists of steep, bare spurs 
divided by narrow valleys, and many invaders coming from the 
coast had found defeat and destruction in those difficult passes. 
For our advance we had, beside the railway, a single decent high- 
way, that which runs from Jaffa to Jerusalem. To safeguard the 
* Sir G. A. Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land. 



1917] THE JUD^AN HILLS 81 

flank of that advance, to secure our hold upon the coastal plain, 
as well as to isolate the city, it was necessary to get astride the one 
good road which traverses the hills from south to north, the road 
from Jerusalem to Nablus. The advance upon the Holy City 
could not, therefore, be by the directest route, more especially as 
the British commander was anxious to avoid any fighting in its 
immediate vicinity. He wished to conquer it, as he had conquered 
Gaza, by blows struck at a distance. 

The stage in the campaign which followed was one of slow and 
hard -won progress in a most intricate country. On the i8th, in 
heavy rain, the yeomanry began to move from Ramleh through 
the defiles of the hills towards Bireh (Beroth) by way of Beitur 
el Tahta (Lower Bethhoron) and the valley of Ajalon — the old 
route between coast and plateau where Joshua won his unorthodox 
victory, and where Saladin in the Third Crusade frustrated all the 
chivalry of the West. Next morning Beit ur el Tahta had been 
reached. On that day, the 19th, the advance of the infantry 
began by the main Jaffa road. The 75th Division was to move 
to Kuryat el Enab (Kirjath Jearim) with Australian mounted 
troops on its flank, and then strike north to Bireh by way of Biddu ; 
while the 52nd was to advance in support through Berfilya to Beit 
Dukka, just south of the Ajalon valley. After some resistance 
in the narrow defile at Saris, Kuryat el Enab and Beit Dukka 
were taken on the 20th, and the yeomanry came within five miles 
of the Nablus-Jerusalem road. 

Next day, the 21st, the 75th Division reached the ridge called 
Nebi Samwil (the ancient Mizpah) , where stood the tomb of Samuel 
the Prophet. The hill was just under three miles from the Nablus 
road, and some five miles from Jerusalem.* On their left the 
yeomanry got within two miles of the road, near the place called 
Beitunia. The rain, which had made our transport most difficult, 
had now given place to clear, cold weather, and Jerusalem, hidden 
in its hollow to the south-east, seemed already in our hands. Sud- 
denly the incalculable Turk all along the front developed a new 
power of resistance. He counter-attacked violently at Nebi Sam- 
wil on the 22nd, and his artillery on the main road admirably 
supported his infantry, while ours was still far in the rear. He 
did not shake us ; but, on the other hand, we could make no 
progress. On the same day the yeomanry at Beitunia were heavily 
assailed, and compelled to fall back to Beit ur el Foka (Upper 
Bethhoron). Before the road could be carried reliefs must be 

* This was the farthest point reached by King Richard in January 1192. 



82 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Dec. 

completed and the guns brought forward. Accordingly we secured 
the line Kustul-Nebi Samwil-Beit Izza-Veit Dukka-Beit ur el 
Tahta, and for two weeks held our hand. The 6oth Division 
relieved the weary 75th and 52nd. 

But the enemy was not inactive. From 25th November on- 
ward he made a series of attacks against our left wing — the Aus- 
tralian and New Zealand Mounted Division — on the coast, which 
at that time held the north bank of the Auja, four miles beyond 
Jaffa, and our advanced posts had to retire across the river. On 
the 29th our line was temporarily broken north-east of Jaffa ; and 
on the 30th the yeomanry and the 52nd Division were heavily 
engaged between El Burj and Beit ur el Foka, while an attack 
was also delivered against the Nebi Samwil ridge. The enemy 
won no lasting success, and between the 27th and the 30th we took 
750 prisoners. Meantime the fine weather allowed us to bring 
up our guns, develop the water supply, and improve the roads for 
the final advance. 

The British line had now the shape of a sickle, with the centre 
of the curve flung far forward towards Jerusalem. It was neces- 
sary to bring up the handle, consisting of the 53rd (Welsh) Divi- 
sion of the 20th Corps and part of the cavalry, which had been 
watching Hebron and had not been seriously in action since the 
stubborn fight for Tel el Khuweilfeh on 6th November. Their 
advance began on 4th December. Hebron, the ancient city of 
Abraham, was occupied without opposition, and by the evening 
of the 6th the advance guards were ten miles north of the place. 
It was arranged that the line Bethlehem-Beitjala should be reached 
by the 7th, and that by dawn on the 8th the British right wing 
should be at Surbahir and Sherafat, three miles south of Jerusalem. 
That day was fixed for the final closing in from west and north. 

On the 7th the weather broke, and three days followed of in- 
cessant rain, which interfered seriously with our already difficult 
transport, while the mist complicated the work of the artillery. 
We had won the passes, and were fighting on the uplands ; but 
the deep valleys and rocky crests of the summit were not less 
arduous than the western slopes. At dawn on the 8th we attacked 
towards the Nablus road, and by noon the 60th Division had 
advanced over two miles and was wheeling north-east to gain the 
road, while the 74th had carried the Beit Iksa spur. But the 
right wing, advancing from Hebron, had taken longer than was 
expected ; and, since the western outskirts of Jerusalem seemed 
strongly held, the Londoners were compelled to retire their right, 



THE CAPTURE OF JERUSALEM. 




B 



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MlJABUHaU 10 3FIUT1A0 ,3HT 



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^ft/'' 



I9I7] FALL OF JERUSALEM 83 

and form a defensive flank facing east. At this point they were 
one and a half miles west of Jerusalem. 

Meantime, in the city itself all was confusion. When Falken- 
hayn departed for Nablus the heads of the various Churches had 
followed suit. Ali Fuad Pasha, the commander of the Turkish 
troops, issued proclamations full of the resolution to resist to the 
last, in one of which he made the curious claim that the Turks 
had held Jerusalem for thirteen hundred years. Arrests and con- 
fiscations were the order of the day, till the gun-fire on the western 
hills about 6th December warned the garrison that the British 
were at hand, and the exodus of Turkish civilians began. About 
midnight on the 8th the Governor, Izzet Bey, went to the telegraph 
office, and with his own hand smashed the instruments. Sunday, 
the 9th, came, the festival of the Hanukah, which commemorates 
the recapture of the Temple by Judas Maccabaeus in 165 B.C. 
Long before dawn hustled detachments of Turkish soldiers began 
to pour in at the Jaffa Gate, while an outgoing stream flowed 
eastward across the valley of Jehoshaphat. The British, coming 
from the west, had found the enemy in retreat, and while the 
60th and 74th Divisions were moving to a line across the Nablus 
road, four miles north of the city, the 53rd Division on the south 
cut the main road to Jericho. Jerusalem was isolated, and shortly 
after sunrise the mayor sent out a parlementaire with Izzet's 
letter of surrender. The last Turkish soldier straggled out of St. 
Stephen's Gate, and long before noon British patrols were in the 
city. 

On Tuesday, the nth, Sir Edmund Allenby entered Jerusalem 
by the Jaffa Gate, which the Arabs call "The Friend." Close by 
was the breach made in the walls when the German Emperor in 
1898 made his foolish pilgrimage. Far different was the entry of 
the British general. It was a clear winter's day, and the streets 
and housetops were thronged with black-coated, tarbushed Syrians 
and Levantines, and the more picturesquely clad peasants from the 
near villages, and Arabs from the fringes of the desert. There was 
no bunting or bell-ringing or firing of salutes. On foot, accom- 
panied only by his staff, the commanders of the French and Italian 
detachments, and the military attaches of France, Italy, and the 
United States, he was received by the Military Governor and a 
guard representing all the nationalities engaged in the campaign. 
He turned to the right into the Mount Zion quarter, and at the 
Citadel, at the base of the ancient Tower of David, his proclama- 
tion was read to the people. 



84 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. [Dec. 

"To the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Blessed and the people 
dwelling in the vicinity. The defeat inflicted upon the Turks by the 
troops under my command has resulted in the occupation of your city 
by my forces. I therefore here and now proclaim it to be under martial 
law, under which form of administration it will remain so long as 
military considerations make it necessary. However, lest any of you 
should be alarmed by reason of your experience at the hands of the 
enemy who has retired, I hereby inform you that it is my desire that 
every person should pursue his lawful business without fear of in- 
terruption. 

"Furthermore, since your City is regarded with affection by the 
adherents of three of the great religions of mankind, and its soil has 
been consecrated by the prayers and pilgrimages of multitudes of 
devout people of these three religions for many centuries, therefore do 
I make known to you that every sacred building, monument, holy 
spot, shrine, traditional site, endowment, pious bequest, or customary 
place of prayer, of whatsoever form of the three religions, will be main- 
tained and protected according to the existing customs and beliefs 
of those to whose faiths they are sacred." 

Then he quietly left the city. Yet no conqueror had ever entered 
it with more prestige. For centuries there had been current an 
Arab prophecy concerning a deliverer ffom the West, and in 1898 
the people of Palestine had asked if the Kaiser were indeed the man. 
They were told that such would not be the manner of his coming, 
for the true saviour would bear the name of a Prophet of God, and 
would enter Jerusalem on foot, and would not appear till the Nile 
flowed into Palestine. To the peasants of Judaea the prophecy 
now seemed to be fulfilled, for the name of the English general 
was in Arabic the "Prophet," * and his men had come into the 
land bringing with them the waters of Egypt. 

So ended the latest of the vicissitudes suflfered by the most 
famous of the world's cities. No other had endured such changes 
of fortune. In the thirty-three centuries of her history she had 
witnessed some twenty sieges and as many more blockades and 
occupations. She had been the prize fought for by conquerors 
from the Tigris, the Nile, the Tiber, the Bosphorus, the Rhone, 
and the Thames. Even five hundred years before Christ the author 
of the Book of Lamentations could write of her: "Behold, and 
say if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow!" Her sanctity 
was as far-reaching as her trials. She was the Holy City alike to 
Jew and Christian and Moslem, and their devotion was less to the 

*A1 Nebi.] 



1917] THE HOLY CITY 85 

relics within her walls than to the compelling power of the faiths 
to which she had given birth, and the ideals of which she had been 
the battle-ground : so that dreamers of every age rebuilt her 
bulwarks in the heaven of their imagining, and her name became 
synonymous with that "shadie citie of palme-trees" which is the 
goal of all human endeavour. Other conquerors had seized her as 
prize of war or to glorify their special creed, but now she was held 
in trust for all creeds that did her honour. It is scarcely fantastic 
to see in the entry of the Allies on that December day a parable 
of the cause for which they fought. They would recover and make 
free the sacred places of the human spirit which their enemies 
sought to profane and enslave, and in this task they walked rever- 
ently, as on hallowed ground. 



CHAPTER LXXXVIII 

CAMBRAI 
November 6- December 7, 191 7 

The New British Plan — The Tanks — Byng's Preparation — Opening of the 
Battle of Cambrai — The Check at Flesqui^res — Close of First Day — 
The Advance of 21st November — German Reinforcements arrive — The 
Fight for Bourlon — The Enemy Counter-attack — Summary of Battle — 
Military Position of Britain at close of 191 7. 

On 6th November with the taking of Passchendaele the Third 
Battle of Ypres drew to a close. It h'ad been a protracted and 
costly operation. On 29th October, in both Houses of Parliament, 
the leaders of all parties had paid grateful tribute to the exploits 
of the British Army. "When I read of the conditions under 
which they fought," said the Prime Minister, "I marvel that the 
delicate and sensitive instrument of the human nerves and the 
human mind can endure them without derangement. The cam- 
paigns of Stonewall Jackson fill us with admiration and with wonder 
as we read how that man of iron led his troops through the mire 
and swamps of Virginia ; but his troops were never called upon 
to live for days and nights in morasses under ceaseless thunder- 
bolts from a powerful artillery, and then march into battle through 
an engulfing quagmire under a hailstorm of machine-gun fire." 
But splendid as the record had been, the British High Command 
could not contemplate the situation with much comfort. Many 
German divisions had been broken at Ypres, but the stagnation of 
the winter war would give them time to rest and refit. Already 
large enemy forces had been brought from Russia, more were on 
their way, and there were many more to come. If the enemy were 
left in peace, he had it in his power to create a dangerous situation 
for the spring. Moreover, Italy, fighting desperately on the Piave, 
deserved by all the laws of war some relief in the shape of an 
Allied diversion. Weary as his troops might be, Sir Douglas Haig 

86 



1917] NEW BRITISH TACTICS 87 

was not able to grant them the rest which they had earned and 
most urgently required. 

If another blow was to be struck, it must not be delayed. 
The operations at Passchendaele had compelled the Germans to 
concentrate heavily on the threatened front and reduce their 
strength in other sectors. These dispositions still continued ; 
but presently, when it was clear that the pressure had been relaxed, 
their troops would be more evenly distributed. If the British 
could strike at once in an unexpected quarter, they might have 
the benefit of a real surprise, and at the moment the thoughts of 
the Allied Command, like that of the German General Staff, were 
running on some means of breaking the rigidity of trench warfare 
and restoring the element of the unexpected. Should such a blow 
succeed, it would have a real effect upon the moral of the enemy, 
for after Third Ypres he would not anticipate a fresh Allied effort 
yet awhile. It would give him an uneasy winter, for it would not 
permit him to reduce the strength of any part of his front, as had 
been his former practice, and so would cripple that heavy local 
concentration which might be looked for in the spring. In decid- 
ing the question a final consideration affected Sir Douglas Haig. 
The British tanks had greatly increased in number and efficiency. 
At Third Ypres ground and weather had prevented their effective 
use, and decreased their reputation in the enemy's eyes. The 
commander of the Fifth Army had reported on them adversely, 
arguing that they could not negotiate bad ground, that the ground 
on a battlefield would always be bad, and that consequently they 
were of no use on a battlefield. The major premise was doubtful 
and the minor false, but if all battles were like Third Ypres the 
conclusion would have been justified. But a terrain might be 
found where they could work freely, and, if so, they might form a 
further element of surprise. 

The mind of Haig, like that of Ludendorff, was working 
towards the discovery of new tactics. So long as their numbers 
preponderated, and the future promised a growing preponderance, 
the Allied Command had been satisfied with those tactics which, 
originating at Neuve Chapelle, had received their final form at the 
Somme. They were the tactics of quantity, mass, patience, rather 
than of quality, brilliance, and speed. Of their value, granted 
the continuation of the circumstances of 1916, and especially 
the war on two fronts, there could be no question, but they tended 
to blunt the minds of their users, and when the fall of Russia 
made their success no longer certain both France and Britain were 



88 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

slow to re-think the problem. Nivelle, indeed, had the inspiration, 
but he had not the power to develop it in accurate detail. The 
French Staff during the summer of 191 7 made an exact study, 
witnessed by a hundred able memoranda, of the German method of 
defence in depth — the shock troops, the local counter-attack, the 
"pill-box" — but they considered the enemy purely as a defensive 
fighter and not as a potential assailant. Hutier's performance at 
Riga passed unnoticed, and Caporetto, when it came, was set 
down to the broken Italian moral. It is to the credit of the British 
Command that they were the first to revise the offensive tactics 
of the Somme, and that their new solution was in the main features 
identical with that of the enemy ; but whereas Germany at once 
applied her conclusion wholesale, the more perfect British version 
remained an isolated experiment. 

The idea originated with Sir Julian Byng, who had commanded 
the Canadian Corps at the taking of the Vimy heights and had 
succeeded Allenby in charge of the Third Army. In conjunction 
with Major-General Hugh Elles of the Tank Corps he worked out 
a scheme of attack in September, for which Haig's consent was 
obtained 20th October. A suitable area, was found in that section 
of the Siegfried Line which lay in front of Havrincourt Wood, 
between the Bapaume-Cambrai road and the Scheldt Canal. It 
was a country of rolling downs, grey with the withered grasses of 
November, and patched with the rank and blackened growths of 
thistle and dock and ragwort which sprang up on land once closely 
tilled and now derelict. From any ridge east of Bapaume the 
observer could grasp the terrain at a glance. Eight miles from 
our front rose the spires and factory chimneys of the town of 
Cambrai. Half-way the deep cutting of the Scheldt Canal zig- 
zagged across the landscape, for the most part empty of water, 
but forming a better barrier than any running stream. On the 
west side of the canal the long Flesquieres ridge ran north and 
south, rising on the left to the dominating point of Bourlon Wood 
between the Arras and Bapaume roads — a wood of oak and ash, 
with a dense undergrowth, and still untouched by shell-fire. East 
of the canal the ground fell away to the flat plains of the Scheldt, 
but the village of Rumilly offered a flank position on the last 
incline of the uplands. 

The merits of this area for a surprise attack were many. In 
the first place, it was dry, open country, where tanks could operate. 
In the second place, behind the British lines, notably in the big wood 
of Havrincourt, there were places where they might be concealed 



191 7] THE CAMBRAI PLAN 89 

without the knowledge of the Germans. In the third place, the 
sector was very thinly held by the enemy. Finally, any consider- 
able British advance would endanger a vital part of the enemy's 
front, and seriously hamper his communications. Cambrai, a 
main centre, would be brought under our guns, as would the great 
lateral railway which ran through it. If Bourlon could be won, 
the canal crossed, and a defensive flank established towards 
Rumilly, we should command the main Arras-Cambrai road, 
and take in rear the enemy positions in the southern part of the 
Drocourt-Queant line and the Sens6e valley. 

The British tactical plan was conceived on novel lines. There 
was to be no preliminary bombardment. Tanks were relied upon 
to break through the enemy's wire, and the six infantry divisions 
allotted for the attack were to advance on a six-mile front, 
supported as far as possible by our guns shooting at unregistered 
targets. The German defences were complicated and very strong. 
First came certain forward positions in the nature of outposts 
at the ridge of La Vacquerie and at the north-eastern corner of 
Havrincourt Wood — a method borrowed from Armin's system in 
the Ypres salient. Behind lay the Siegfried Line proper, running 
north-west to Havrincourt from the Scheldt Canal at Banteux 
— aline with specially wide trenches which, it was hoped, would 
prevent the passage of tanks. Acres of dense wire lay before it, 
wire nowhere less than fifty yards wide ; it was calculated that to 
cut it with artillery would take five weeks and cost twenty millions 
of money. A mile or so behind that lay the famous Siegfried 
Reserve Line, tunnelled to a great depth and heavily wired. Be- 
tween three and four miles to the east ran the final German 
position, covering Cambrai, from Beaurevoir by Masnieres to 
Marquion. 

Haig's object was not the capture of Cambrai ; that might 
happen, but his advance in the direction of the town was rather 
to secure his right flank. His main objective was towards the 
north-east, Bourlon, and the Arras-Cambrai road. He hoped to 
break through all the enemy's lines of defence on the first day ; 
and, since he believed that no serious German reinforcements 
could appear before forty-eight hours, he considered that he would 
have time to exploit and secure any success. The cavalry were 
to be kept ready to go through and disorganize the enemy com- 
munications, and he arranged with Petain to have a French force 
of infantry and cavalry within call in the event of fortune provid- 
ing one of those happy chances which he had hitherto been denied. 



90 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Nov. 

The possibilities which he had in mind are best described in the 
words of his dispatch : — 

"In view of the strength of the German forces on the front of my 
attack, and the success with which secrecy was maintained during our 
preparations, I had calculated that the enemy's prepared defences 
would be captured in the first rush. I had good hope that his resisting 
power behind those defences would then be so enfeebled for a period 
that we should be able on the same day to establish ourselves quickly 
and completely on the dominating Bourlon Ridge from Fontaine- 
Notre-Dame to Moeuvres, and to secure our right flank along a line 
including the Bonavis Ridge, Crevecoeur, and Rumilly to Fontaine- 
Notre-Dame. Even if this did not prove possible within the first 
twenty-four hours, a second day would be at our disposal before the 
enemy's reserves could begin to arrive in any formidable numbers. 
Meanwhile, with no wire and no prepared defences to hamper them, 
it was reasonable to hope that masses of cavalry would find it possible 
to pass through, whose task would be thoroughly to disorganize the 
enemy's system of command and inter-communication in the whole 
area between the Canal de I'Escaut, the river Sensee and the Canal 
du Nord, as well as to the east and north-east of Cambrai. My in- 
tentions as regards subsequent exploitation were to push westward 
and north-westward, taking the Hindenburg Line in reverse from 
Moeuvres to the river Scarpe, and capturing all the enemy's defences, 
and probably most of his garrisons, lying westward of a line from 
Cambrai northwards to the Sensee, and south of that river and the 
Scarpe. Time would have been required to enable us to develop and 
complete the operation; but the prospects of gaining the necessary 
time, by the use of cavalry in the manner outlined above, were, in my 
opinion, good enough to justify the attempt to execute the plan." 

There will be a few to deny that this plan was both bold and 
feasible. As a scheme for a substantive operation it was at least 
as skilful and prudent as any which the British High Command 
had yet adopted. But was the battle which followed to be con- 
sidered a substantive operation? The Commander-in-Chief has 
described how weary were his troops after the close of Third Ypres ; 
how inadequately his losses had been replaced ; and explained 
that many of the new drafts included in the ranks of his armies 
were not yet fully trained. In such circumstances a substantive 
operation — that is, one designed to occupy and hold a considerable 
extent of new ground — must be hazardous in the extreme ; for 
even if only a small force was required in the first instance, and if 
this force could be supplied from comparatively fresh divisions, 
it was certain that, as the battle developed, reserves must be found, 



191 7] THE PREPARATIONS 91 

and that these could only be got from tired and depleted troops 
who had already borne the brunt of Third Ypres. Cambrai has 
been described as no more than a raid on a generous scale. Now, 
it is the essence of a raid that it does not occupy ground ; the men 
engaged in it harass and weaken the enemy, and then return to 
their old line. But Haig contemplated an advance on the first 
day of between five and six miles, and thereafter elaborate opera- 
tions to the north and north-west. Such successes would in any 
case demand large reinforcements. Again, the essence of a raid 
is that, if the enemy proves unexpectedly strong, it is given up. 
But since this attempt was on so large a scale, would it be possible 
to withdraw the troops after their initial advance, should the 
situation change? Was it not more probable that they would 
become so deeply committed that they must continue the battle ? 
It may fairly be said in criticism of the Cambrai plan that it con- 
templated a limited and local operation, which in the nature 
of things could not be limited and localized, much less easily broken 
off. It designed a raid with a few divisions ; but such a raid must 
inevitably develop into a battle and demand supports, and these 
supports could only come from troops who ex hypothese were in no 
condition for a new and desperate conflict. 

The Cambrai sector from Bullecourt to the Oise was held by 
the German II. Army, under von der Marwitz, which at the mo- 
ment had only eleven divisions in line. In the threatened area 
it had only three — from left to right, the 5th, the 2nd, and the 
20th, with three more in reserve. A fresh division from the 
Eastern front, the 107th, was in process of arriving. The British 
force was the Third Army, which had not been seriously engaged 
since the Battle of Arras in the spring. On the six-mile front of 
the main attack Sir Julian Byng had in line six divisions — from 
left to right, the 36th, 62nd, 51st, 6th, 20th, and 12th. On the 
left, in the Bullecourt area, two divisions, the i6th and the 3rd, 
were detailed for a subsidiary attack. In immediate support in 
the main area was the 29th Division. The mounted force at his 
disposal contained the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th Cavalry Divisions. 

Secrecy was vital in the matter, and Byng directed the prepara- 
tions with consummate skill. Till the very eve of the battle few 
even in the Tank Corps knew the plan. The flotillas of tanks 
were assembled in every possible place which offered cover, notably 
in Havrincourt Wood. The tank is not a noiseless machine, and 
it says much for the ingenuity of the Third Army that the enemy 
had no inkling of our designs. It was anxious work, for a single 



92 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Nov. 

enemy airplane over Havrincourt or a single indiscreet prisoner 
taken would have wrecked the plan. Before the attack the enemy 
did indeed take prisoners, but he seems to have learned little from 
them, though it would appear that he suspected tanks in the neigh- 
bourhood and served out special ammunition. Had he been really 
forewarned, he might have so honeycombed his front with contact 
mines that our advance would have been completely frustrated. 
The weather favoured Byng. The days before the assault saw the 
low grey skies and the clinging mist of late November. 

Tuesday, 20th November, dawned with heavy clouds that 
promised rain before evening. At twenty minutes past six a 
solitary gun broke the silence. It was the signal, and from just 
north of the Bapaume road to the hamlet of Gonnelieu in the south 
a long line of tanks crept forward into the fog, their commander, 
General EUes, leading them like an admiral in his "flagship." 
Gas and smoke were released everywhere from the Scarpe to St. 
Quentin, and in front of the tanks a dense smoke barrage blinded 
the enemy's guns. The British artillery broke loose and deluged 
the German rear with shells, while, behind the tanks, quietly and 
leisurely moved the six divisions of assault. At Epehy on the 
south and at Bullecourt on the north 'subsidiary attacks were 
launched at the same moment. The enemy was taken utterly 
unawares. The tanks cut great lanes in his wire, broke up his 
machine-gun nests, and enfiladed his trenches, while the British 
infantry followed to complete the work. At once the outposts 
went, the main Siegfried Line followed soon, and presently the 
fighting was among the tunnels of the Reserve Line. By half- 
past ten that also had vanished, and the British troops, with cavalry 
close behind, were advancing to their final objectives in open 
country. 

Let us glance at the progress of the several divisions. On 
the left, west of the Canal du Nord, the 36th (Ulster) Division 
drove the enemy from the canal bank, pushed up the Siegfried 
Line, and carried the whole German trench system west of the 
canal as far as the Bapaume road. On their right the 62nd Division 
of West Riding Territorials began that brilliant advance which 
was to give them the honours of the day. They took Havrincourt 
village, turned northward, carried the Siegfried Reserve Line, and 
occupied Graincourt, where their accompanying tanks had the 
satisfaction of themselves destroying two anti-tank guns. Before 
evening they were in Anneux, an advance of four and a half miles 
from the original front — the longest advance that so far in the 



1917] THE TANKS ADVANCE 93 

war any single British division had made in one day. South of 
the Yorkshiremen the 51st (Highland Territorials) were adding 
to their many laurels. They breasted the slopes of the Flesquieres 
ridge, and carried the formidable defences of the chateau grounds 
by noon. They were held up, however, in front of the village, 
which remained uncaptured during the day, the apex of a sharp 
salient. Here our tanks suffered from direct hits from the German 
field guns beyond the crest of the ridge, many of them obtained 
by a German artillery officer who served a gun single-handed till 
he died at his post. "The great bravery of this officer," says the 
official dispatch, "aroused the admiration of all ranks." South 
of Flesquieres the 6th Division took Ribecourt, while the 20th 
Division, after disposing of La Vacquerie, stormed the defences 
of the hill which we called Welsh Ridge towards Marcoing. The 
I2th Division, on the extreme right, moved along the Bonavis 
ridge, and, after a fierce struggle, took Lateau Wood, which shel- 
tered many German batteries. Meantime the 29th Division had 
been pushed through between the 6th and the 20th as a spearhead. 
Accompanied by tanks, it took Marcoing and Neuf Wood and the 
passage at that point of the Scheldt Canal ; while the 6th Division, 
advancing from Ribecourt in the afternoon, moved north and 
seized Noyelles-sur-l'Escaut. The 29th then turned south and 
entered Masnieres, but not before the enemy had managed so to 
weaken the bridge over the canal that the first tank which tried 
to cross fell through. They had trouble also in the north end of 
the village, with the result that the Germans had the chance to 
occupy Rumilly and the sector of their final line of defence south 
of it. 

All this time the cavalry were fighting in close alliance with 
the infantry — the ist Cavalry Division in the northern part of the 
battleground, and the 5th Cavalry Division in the south. They 
were moving on Cantaing and Anneux ; but the vital point was 
the bridge at Masnieres, and unfortunately that was half destroyed. 
This delayed what might have otherwise been a final blow to the 
enemy defence, for had the cavalry been able to cross the canal 
in force there was little between them and Cambrai. A temporary 
bridge was, indeed, constructed south of Masnieres, and one 
squadron of the Fort Garry Horse, belonging to General Seeley's 
Canadian Brigade of the 5th Cavalry Division, crossed, broke 
through the Beaurevoir-Masnieres line, charged and captured a 
German battery, cut up a body of 300 German infantry,' and only 
retired when most of its horses had been killed or wounded. 



94 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Nov. 

The day closed with a remarkable record of success. The sub- 
sidiary attacks had done well, the i6th and 3rd Divisions having 
captured the remainder of the Siegfried Reserve Line at Bullecourt, 
with 700 prisoners. On the whole front already over 5,000 pris- 
oners had been brought in. Sir Julian Byng had carried the out- 
posts, the Siegfried Line, and the Siegfried Reserve Line on most 
of his front, and had broken into the final line at Masnieres. He 
had won nearly all his objectives ; but at three points and vital 
points, he had not succeeded. He had not got Rumilly and 
Crevecoeur, and so had not yet obtained that defensive flank which 
he needed for his swing to the north. Nor had he won the crossings 
of the Scheldt Canal, and breached the final line widely enough to 
let the cavalry through. For this the destruction of the bridge at 
Masnieres was to blame, and more especially, perhaps, the check 
of the 5 1 St Division at Flesquieres village. This last also prevented 
the attainment of the most important objective of all, the Bourlon 
ridge, the garrison of which had by now been reinforced. Only 
twenty-four hours remained to complete the work before the 
enemy would have received supports. In that time Bourlon 
might be won, and perhaps Rumilly and Crevecceur ; but, now 
that the first shock of surprise had passed, the chance for the 
cavalry was gone. 

The rain began to fall after midday on the 20th, and continued 
into the morning of the 21st. By 8 a.m. on that morning Fles- 
quieres village had fallen, turned from the north-west, and by 
eleven the final German line had been breached to the north of 
Masnieres. The enemy counter-attacked from Rumilly and was 
beaten off, and at Noyelles part of the 29th Division and dis- 
mounted regiments of the 1st and 5th Cavalry Divisions were 
hotly engaged during the day. On our right we captured the hamlet 
of Les Rues des Vignes, between Bonavis and Crevecoeur, but lost 
it again ; and our attack towards Crevecoeur itself was hung up 
by machine-gun fire at the canal crossings. On our extreme left 
the 36th Division, pushing north of the Bapaume road, got into 
the skirts of Moeuvres, where it found a strong resistance. But 
the vital point was on the left centre, where the 51st and 62nd 
Divisions, assisted by tanks and squadrons of the ist Cavalry 
Division, were struggling desperately towards Bourlon. The 
advance began at 10.30 a.m., as soon as possible after the clearing 
of Flesquieres. The West Riding troops completed the capture 
of Anneux, and early in the afternoon the 6th and 51st Divi- 
sions took Cantaing, close upon the Scheldt Canal. The High- 



1917] END OF FIRST DAY 95 

landers pressed on to the edge of Bourlon Wood, and late in the 
evening took the village of Fontaine-Notre-Dame, on the Bapaume 
road between Bourlon and Cambrai. Bourlon Wood itself was a 
nest of machine guns, which barred the infantry advance, though 
a few tanks penetrated some way into its recesses. 

With dawn on the 22nd the forty-eight hours of grace ended, 
the period during which the enemy must fight without his reserves. 
His reinforcements were hurrying up; the night before the 1st 
Guards Reserve had arrived from Lens, and other divisions were 
on their way from Flanders and from the Crown Prince in the 
south. Our new line left the old front at a point half-way between 
Bourcies and Pronville ; ran east through the skirts of Mceuvres 
to the Canal du Nord ; then along the southern face of Bourlon 
Wood to Fontaine-Notre-Dame, where it turned south-east, cover- 
ing Cantaing, Noyelles, and Masnieres, to a point east of the Scheldt 
Canal half-way between the last-named village and Crevecoeur. 
Thence it passed along the eastern and southern slopes of the 
Bonavis ridge to our old front near Gonnelieu. We had failed to 
win certain vital positions for a defensive flank, such as Rumilly 
and Crevecoeur ; above all, we did not hold the dominating ground 
of Bourlon Wood and village. Clearly we could not remain where 
we were. Either we must go on till Bourlon was taken, or fall 
back to the Flesquieres ridge and secure our gains. Haig had now 
to decide whether to treat the action as a lucky raid, and hold 
himself fortunate for what he had already achieved, without 
risking more ; or to regard it as a substantive battle, and press 
for a decision. 

Inevitably he leaned to the second alternative. To fall back 
when much has been won and still more seems within reach, is 
possible for few commanders, even when they have less weighty 
reasons for their conclusion than were present to the mind of 
the British general. The choice which he now made had been 
really impHed in his original plan. He was impressed by the acute 
significance of the Bourlon ridge. If he could only gain and hold 
it, the German front south of the Scarpe and Sensee would be 
turned, and the enemy must be compelled to abandon all the 
elaborate defences of that sector. It was such a nerve-centre as 
we had rarely before had the chance of striking at. It was true 
that German reinforcements were arriving, and that our troops 
were so exhausted that we too must delay a little for reliefs. But 
he considered that any German reserves that could appear for 
several days would be only sufficient to replace the enemy losses 



96 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Nov. 

in the past fighting, and that there was some evidence of a whole- 
sale German withdrawal. In any case he believed that he had 
sufficient forces to strike at Bourlon before that position could 
be strengthened. He had hopes of receiving immediate reinforce- 
ments from Petain. Two British divisions, under orders for Italy, 
had been placed at his disposal, and with this accession of strength 
he hoped to win the ridge forthwith. Lastly, there were ever 
present to his mind the needs of the Italian situation. Any pres- 
sure on the Cambrai front, even if unsuccessful in its main object, 
would do something to relieve the strain of the Piave. He accord- 
ingly decided to continue the action till Bourlon was won. In the 
light of subsequent events it is clear that the decision was unwise, 
since he had too small a force to achieve his purpose and to defend 
his gains against the attack which the enemy could develop. But 
to foresee the future with precision is not in the power of the most 
sagacious commander, and to take risks is of the essence of war. 

The 22nd of November was spent in relieving some of the 
divisions which had suffered most in the battle, and organizing 
the ground won on our right and right centre. A little after mid- 
day the enemy regained Fontaine-Notre-Dame, which was com- 
manded not only by the height of Bourlo'n, but by the positions 
at La Folic Wood and on the canal towards Cambrai. That night 
the 36th (Ulster) and the 56th Division of London Territorials were 
engaged in the Mceuvres area, and a battalion of the latter carried 
Tadpole Copse, a point in the Siegfried Line west of Mceuvres, 
which was of value as a flanking position for the attack on Bourlon 
Wood. On the morning of the 23rd came the serious assault on 
the Bourlon heights. The 51st Division attacked Fontaine-Notre- 
Dame, but was repulsed ; in the afternoon it tried again, but 
could not clear the village, though our tanks entered it and remained 
there till dusk, to the inconvenience of the enemy. Meantime on 
its left the 40th Division attacked the Wood, captured all of 
it, including the highest point of the ridge, and entered Bourlon 
village. The enemy here was the 3rd Guards Division, and a 
counter-attack by all three battalions of the 9th Grenadier Regi- 
ment was completely repulsed before evening. 

The battle was now concentrated in the Bourlon area, and for 
some days in that ragged wood, and around the shells of the two 
villages, a fierce and bloody strife continued. On the morning of 
the 24th a counter-attack drove us out of the north-east corner of 
the wood, but the 14th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of the 
51st Division, the dismounted 15th Hussars, and what was left 



191 7] THE FIGHT FOR BOURLON 97 

of the 119th Brigade of the 40th Division, re-established our front. 
Assaults from the west were also repulsed by dismounted cavalry. 
That afternoon the 40th Division attacked Bourlon village, and 
captured the whole of it. All along the line from Tadpole Copse 
to Fontaine it was clear that the enemy was gaining in strength, 
and next evening, 25th November, Bourlon village was retaken by 
the Germans, though part of a British battalion held out in the 
south-east corner till they were relieved two days later. The 40th 
Division, which had had most of the fighting here, was now replaced 
by the 62nd Division, and the enemy continued the press so hard 
that on the 26th he had entered the northern skirts of Bourlon 
Wood. 

Our position was now too awkward to be long maintained, and 
on the 27th we made an effort to secure the whole Bourlon ridge 
as well as Fontaine-Notre-Dame. Two divisions, supported by 
tanks, were designed for the task — the Guards against Fontaine, 
and the 62nd on their left against Bourlon. Once more we suc- 
ceeded in gaining both villages ; once again counter-attacks later 
in the day drove us out of them. We held a strong position on 
the Bourlon ridge, but we had not yet established it. Accord- 
ingly we relieved the divisions which had borne the brunt of the 
fighting, and set to work to design a final attack which should 
give us what we sought. Meantime on other parts of the line we 
had improved our situation. The 12th Division on our right had 
pushed out towards Banteux, on the Scheldt Canal, and on our 
left the 1 6th Division had won ground in the Siegfried Line north- 
west of Bullecourt. In the week's fighting we had taken over 
10,500 prisoners and 142 guns ; we had carried 14,000 yards of 
the main Siegfried Line and 10,000 yards of the Reserve Line ; we 
had wrested more than sixty square miles from the enemy, and 
retaken ten villages. We now held a salient formed like a rough 
rectangle, some ten miles wide and six miles deep. It was a salient 
awkwardly placed, for we had not won either on north or east the 
positions which would have made it secure, and during that week 
the enemy, by means of his admirable communications, was hurry- 
ing up troops for a counterstroke. 

Cambrai had violently startled the German High Command. 
They had not dreamed of such an event, and they realized that 
only by the narrowest margin had they escaped catastrophe. The 
joy bells which rang prematurely in England woke uneasy thoughts 
in Germany, and the people for a moment were gravely depressed. 



98 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Nov. 

It was Ludendorff's business to cheer his countrymen by a 
dramatic counterstroke ; for, knowing the immense sacrifice he 
was to demand from the nation in the coming spring, he could 
not afford to permit any check to their confidence. Accordingly, 
during the last week of November, fresh divisions were brought 
to the battlefield, and on the 29th Marwitz issued an order to 
the II. Army: — 

"The English, by throwing into the fight countless tanks on 20th 
November, gained a victory near Cambrai. Their intention was to 
break through ; but they did not succeed, thanks to the brilliant 
resistance of our troops. We are now going to turn their embryonic 
victory into a defeat by an encircling counter-attack. The Fatherland 
is watching you, and expects every man to do his duty." 

The British High Command were aware of this activity ; they 
were even aware that its area extended outside the battleground 
as far south as Vendhuille ; and they took measures to prepare for 
the worst. In the area between Moeuvres and Cantaing they had 
two fresh divisions — the 47th London Territorials and the 2nd — 
and one, the 56th, which had been only partially engaged. On 
the ten miles between Cantaing and the ravine at Banteux lay five 
divisions — the 62nd, 6th, 29th, 20th, and 12th — all of which had 
been previously in action, and were more or less weary. South of 
Banteux our line was very weak ; but there the 55th Division held 
a front which had been in our possession for months, and conse- 
quently its defence was well organized. Moreover, our hold on 
the Bonavis ridge increased the security of the line between Ban- 
teux and Vendhuille. In immediate reserve were the Guards and 
the 2nd Cavalry Division, and in general support the 48th (South 
Midland) Division, and the 4th and 5th Cavalry Divisions. It 
seemed certain that, since our hold on Bourlon ridge was so inse- 
cure, and the place meant so much to the enemy, the chief weight 
of any counterstroke would fall there, and in that area, as 
events showed, we were well prepared. Everywhere on our front 
the warning was given, and especial precautions were taken on 
that bit of our old line between Villers Guislain and Vendhuille. 
"Troops were warned to expect an attack, additional machine guns 
were placed to secure supporting points, and divisional reserves 
were closed up. Special patrols were also sent out to watch for 
signs of any hostile advance." 

Nevertheless, the enemy secured a tactical surprise. His plan 
was to strike hard on our two flanks, and then to press in the centre. 



I9I7] THE GERMAN COUNTERSTROKE 99 

On his right he hoped to win the line Flesquieres-Havrincourt, and 
on his left the line Ribecourt-Trescault-Beaucamp-Gouzeau- 
court, and so nip off all the British troops in the front of the salient. 
Four divisions were allotted for the southern flank attack, three 
for the northern. He used also his new tactics, designed on the 
Eastern front and first practised at Caporetto ; and these tactics 
meant surprise. 

At 7.30 a.m., on the morning of Friday, 30th November, a storm 
of gas shells broke out on the ten miles between Masnieres and Vend- 
huille. There was no steadily advancing barrage to warn us of 
the approach of the enemy's infantry, and the thick morning mist 
enabled him to reach our trenches when our men were still under 
cover. The result was that from the north end of the Bonavis 
ridge to Gonnelieu, and from Gonnelieu to Vendhuille, our line was 
overwhelmed. At once the enemy was on the edge of La Vacque- 
rie, and pressing up the deep ravine between Villers Guislain 
and Gonnelieu. Isolated British detachments in advantageous 
positions offered a gallant resistance. Such were the parties at 
Lateau Wood and south-east of La Vacquerie ; such were the field 
artillery brigade north-east of La Vacquerie, the troops on the 
high ground east of Villers Guislain, and south of that village the 
garrison at Limerick Post. But the advance could not be stayed. 
The batteries at La Vacquerie were taken — the first British guns 
to be lost since Second Ypres — and at 9 a.m. the enemy was in 
Gouzeaucourt. 

The situation was grave Indeed, for our position in the front 
of the salient was turned in flank and rear. It was saved by the 
29th Division at Masnieres. That gallant body — made up of 
English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Guernsey, and Newfoundland bat- 
talions — had by its exploits at Gallipoli and on the Somme won a 
reputation second to none in the British Army. This day it gained 
still higher renown. Though the enemy, covering it on flank and 
rear, overran its divisional and brigade headquarters, and took its 
batteries in reverse, it did not yield its ground. Swinging back 
its right to form a defensive flank, it clung to Masnieres and beat 
off all attacks. Its heroic resistance defeated the German plan 
of a frontal assault, and gave Byng time to attend to his broken 
right wing. 

At midday the Guards came into action west of Gouzeaucourt, 
with the 5th Cavalry Division filling the gap on their right towards 
Villers Guislain. Gouzeaucourt was retaken, and for the rest of 
the day there was a fierce struggle on the St. Quentin ridge and at 



100 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Dec. 

Gauche Wood, east of the village. There every kind of unit was 
engaged — three battalions of tanks, a field artillery brigade of the 
47th Division, a detachment of the 29th Division, and a company 
of North Midland sappers. By the evening they had found touch 
with the garrison of La Vacquerie, who in turn were linked up with 
the defenders of Masni^res, and our Hne was reconstituted. 

Meantime, the other part of the enemy force had hurled itself 
against the front between Moeuvres and the Scheldt Canal, held 
by the 56th, 2nd, and 47th Divisions. These three divisions, one 
of old regulars and two of London Territorials, were forewarned 
of the attack by a severe preliminary bombardment followed by 
a barrage. A little after 9 a.m. the German infantry came on in 
wave after wave, so that as many as eleven waves advanced in 
one area during the day. The fiercest thrust was west of Bourlon 
Wood. There a company of the 17th Royal Fusiliers of the 2nd 
Division was in course of being withdrawn from an exposed posi- 
tion when the storm burst on it. Its commander "sent three of 
his platoons back, and with a rearguard, composed of the remainder 
of his company, held ofT the enemy's infantry until the main posi- 
tion had been organized. Having faithfully accomplished their 
task, this rearguard died fighting to th6 end with their faces to 
the enemy." The day was starred with heroic deeds. Between 
Moeuvres and the Canal du Nord a company of the 13th Essex 
of the 2nd Division found itself isolated. "After maintaining a 
splendid and successful resistance throughout the day, whereby 
the pressure upon our main line was greatly relieved, at 4 p.m. 
this company held a council of war, at which the two remaining 
company officers, the company sergeant-major, and the platoon 
sergeants were present, and unanimously determined to fight to 
the last, and have 'no surrender.' Two runners who were sent 
to notify this decision to battalion headquarters succeeded in get- 
ting through to our lines, and delivered their message. During 
the remainder of the afternoon and far into the following night 
this gallant company were heard fighting, and there is little room 
for doubt that they carried out to a man their heroic resolution." 
So, too, when three posts held by the ist Royal Berkshires of the 
2nd Division were overwhelmed. "When, two days later, the 
three posts were regained, such a heap of German dead lay in and 
around them that the bodies of our own men were hidden." So, 
too, when on the right of the 47th Division a gap was found be- 
tween the 1/5 and 1/15 battalions of the London Regiment, the 
two battalion commanders counter-attacked with every man they 



CAMBRAI. 




1917] CLOSE OF BATTLE loi 

could lay their hands on — cooks, orderlies, runners, and signallers 
— and restored the position. Before such soldierly resolution the 
German waves broke and ebbed, leaving great numbers of dead, 
and by the evening the assault had most signally failed. 

But the battle was not over. On 1st December the Guards 
advanced, captured the St. Quentin ridge and entered Gonnelieu, 
taking several hundred prisoners and many machine guns. Farther 
south, with the help of tanks and dismounted Indian cavalry, 
they took Gauche Wood, but failed to enter Villers Guislain. There 
was heavy fighting also at Bourlon and Marcoing, and the 29th 
Division at Masnieres beat off no less than nine attacks. But the 
Masnieres position, with the Bonavis ridge in the enemy's hands, 
was now precarious, and that night the 29th Division withdrew to 
a line west of the village. Next day there was a further with- 
drawal. The enemy pressed up Welsh Ridge, north-east of La 
Vacquerie, and won ground north and west of Gonnelieu. On 
the 3rd he took La Vacquerie, and since our position beyond the 
Scheldt Canal near Marcoing was now becoming an acute salienc, 
our troops were brought to the west bank of the canal. 

Little happened for the next two days but local fighting ; but 
it was clear to Haig that, although the enemy's vigour seemed to 
be exhausted, the British front was in a highly unsatisfactory 
state. Either we must regain the Bonavis ridge, which meant a 
new and severe engagement for which we had not the troops, or 
we must draw in our line to the Flesquieres ridge. He had no 
other course before him but to give up the Bourlon position for 
which his troops had so gallantly fought. The shortening of the 
line was begun on the night of the 4th and completed by the morn- 
ing of the 7th. The operation was achieved no less skilfully than 
the similar drawing in of the Ypres front in May 191 5. The new 
front, which in its northern part corresponded roughly to the old 
Siegfried Reserve Line, ran from the Canal du Nord one and a 
half miles north of Havrincourt, north of Flesquieres and Ribe- 
court, and along Welsh Ridge to a point one and a half miles north 
by east of La Vacquerie. South of that it ran west of Gonnelieu 
and Villers Guislain, rejoining our old front at Vendhuille. For 
some days there was local fighting at Bullecourt, but the battle was 
over, and by the end of the year the Cambrai front had returned 
to the normal winter inactivity. 

The main criticism on this remarkable action has been already 
alluded to — that its conception was based on a fallacy, since it 



102 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Dec. 

would inevitably involve an extension of operations for which we 
had not adequate strength. A secondary criticism is that it should 
have been broken off on 22nd November, when the forty-eight 
hours of grace had passed and we had not secured our most vital 
objectives. The replies to both arguments have been suggested 
in the preceding pages. Viewed in the light of the central strategy 
of the war, Cambrai effected nothing. It was a brilliant feat of 
arms, which reflected great credit on the British troops and their 
commanders, but it had no real bearing upon the fortunes of either 
combatant. It did not weaken the enemy in his positions, for we 
had to surrender Bourlon ; it did not weaken him in personnel, 
for the losses were much the same on both sides ; nor in moral, 
for he retrieved his first disaster. Looked at solely as a feat of 
arms, the honours were, perhaps, with Sir Julian Byng, for on a 
balance the British retained sixteen square miles of enemy terri- 
tory, while the Germans on 30th November won only seven miles 
of British, and our sixteen included a seven-mile stretch of the 
Siegfried Line. It is difficult to see that the British Commander- 
in-Chief could have acted otherwise than he did. He took a 
legitimate risk. Had he succeeded, his bold strategy would have 
been lauded to the skies, and he cannbt be blamed because he 
just fell short of the purpose he had set himself. One good result 
was indisputable. Enemy divisions destined for the Italian front 
were diverted to Cambrai, and at a most critical period in the 
stand on the Piave the German concentration against Italy was 
suspended for at least a fortnight. 

Had Haig succeeded to the full, it is unlikely that his success 
would have had any lasting influence on the campaign, for he. 
had not the strength to follow it up. Cambrai was not one of the 
moments in the war when the Allies had in their hands a chance 
of a decisive victory.* But there was that in the German counter- 
stroke the full understanding of which, had it been possible for our 
General Staff, might have had a potent influence on the future. 
The attack of the enemy right on Bourlon was in the traditional 
German manner, reminding those who had served in the autumn 
of 1914 of the methods of First Ypres. There was the heavy 
initial bombardment, and then wave after wave of massed infantry. 
But it was different on his left between Masnieres and Vendhuille. 
It was believed in Britain at the time that there had been some 

* Perhaps there was only one such moment — in the beginning of 191 7, 
when, if the plan of Haig and Joffre had been allowed to stand, and Nivelle's 
Aisne plan rejected, Germany might have been beaten in the field before she 
could benefit from the Russian Revolution. 



I9I7] MILITARY RESULTS OF 1917 103 

defect in our intelligence system which accounted for the sur- 
prise, but it is clear that there was no such defect. We had all 
the knowledge of the enemy attack which any Intelligence Corps 
could give. Nor were we deficient in artillery, nor greatly out- 
numbered, for the enemy superiority was not more than four to 
three. Nevertheless it was a surprise, for a system was being 
tested which had not yet been tried upon a British force. It was 
the new system which the Allied Staff had not yet mastered — 
the tactics of Riga, of Caporetto. The lesson was missed ; but 
four months later the armies of France and Britain were to read 
it in letters of fire. 

With Cambrai closed the campaign of 191 7 on the Western 
front, save that the guns were still growling on the Piave, though 
there the worst crisis had passed. It had been a year of hard 
fighting for both France and Britain. The former; after the bitter 
disappointment of the early days of the Second Battle of the Aisne, 
had hewn her way patiently to success, till she had cleared the Aisne 
heights, and won back all but a mile or two of the sacred Verdun 
soil. Britain had had the harder task and the more continuous 
fighting. From the first days of January, when the enemy began 
to retreat from the Somme uplands, to the middle of December, 
when Cambrai died down, her forces had been scarcely a week 
out of battle. Arras, Messines, Third Ypres, and Cambrai were 
actions as great as any in the history of British arms. We had 
taken more than 125,000 prisoners ; we had wrested from the enemy 
ever>' single piece of dominating ground between the Oise and the 
North Sea. It had been a year of successes, signal and yet inde- 
terminate. The Germans had fallen back upon new positions 
prepared by the labour of prisoners and in these masterpieces of 
field fortification were able to abide. The policy of the Somme 
was now seen to be out of date. The war had concentrated on 
one front, the Western, and we could not hope to wear our opponents 
down by the method of limited objectives, and then break them, 
for they had found a new reservoir of supply. 

The dominant fact at the close of 191 7 was that the enemy 
was now able to resume the offensive at will. He had some 150 
divisions in the West and 79 in the East, for though he had brought 
westward 23 divisions since 1st October, he had the habit of re- 
turning eastward certain worn-out units. But the men he was 
bringing from Russia were the cream of his manhood, and the 
business of forming and training new shock-battalions went busily 



104 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Dec. 

on. Moreover, he was far from having exhausted that source of 
supply, and presently he could add another half-million of men 
and an infinity of guns to his Western strength. The long German 
defensive, which had lasted since Verdun, was at an end. Young 
soldiers and irresponsible civilians professed to welcome a German 
assault ; but wise men were uneasy. They knew that the German 
Staff would presently make a desperate effort to secure a decision 
before Russia could recover from her maladies and ere America 
was ready. The German defence had been conducted in a long- 
prepared fortified zone ; our success had given us a new line, 
often only a few weeks old, and we had not the German assiduity 
in field work ; how, it was asked, should we fare against a resolute 
offensive ? Again, we were deplorably short of men. Sir Douglas 
Haig had never received during 191 7 the minimum levies he had 
asked for, and had been compelled to put into the line of battle 
men imperfectly trained, and to strain good divisions to the break- 
ing-point. Too little was being done at home to raise fresh forces. 
The anomaly of Ireland remained; the vigorous "comb-out" of 
non-essential industries, so often promised, had not yet been under- 
taken. 

The mind of Britain was exercised with a military problem 
which even the dullest felt to be growing urgent. In a subsequent 
chapter we shall examine its reaction upon our political life in 
the discussions as to a unified War Staff for all the Allies, and the 
appointment of a Generalissimo. The steps taken with regard to 
the former were timid, but, so far as they went, useful. The latter 
question, to which only one answer could be given by thoughtful 
men, was obscured by a fog of false sentiment and misplaced 
national pride. The British people, willing to do all that was asked 
of them, received no clear word of leading either from the embar- 
rassed and somewhat obscure pleas of the soldier or the convenient 
rhetoric of the politician. To the observer, familiar with his coun- 
trymen, it was apparent that a drastic remedy would not be adopted 
except under the goad of an immense disaster. 



CHAPTER LXXXIX 

THE CONQUEST OF EAST AFRICA 
January igi$- November 26, 1917 

The Position in 191 5 — Lettow-Vorbeck's Policy — Arrival of General Smuts — 
His Strategical Plan — The Gap of Kilimanjaro passed — Van Deventer 
marches on Kondoa Irangi — The Advance down the Tanga Railway — 
Capture of Tanga — Advance on Kilossa — The Fighting astride the Central 
Railway — Dar-es-Salaam occupied — The Rufiji crossed — Smuts returns 
to England — The Campaign of Hoskins and Van Deventer — The Colony 
cleared of the Enemy — Summary of East African Campaign. 

The close of 191 7 saw what had once been the colony of German 
East Africa wholly in British hands, though fighting still continued 
inside the marches of Mozambique. The story of the campaign 
which produced this result deserves to be studied in the closest 
detail, alike for its masterly strategy, its picturesque interest, 
and its fine record of human endurance ; but in a work such as 
this it can be treated only on the broadest lines, for it was no more 
than an episode in the great struggle of the nations. Yet even the 
barest sketch will reveal the extraordinary difficulties of the cam- 
paigning and the magnitude of the performance alike of conquerors 
and conquered. 

We left the narrative in the early days of 191 5, when the slender 
British forces were definitely on the defensive. The Germans in 
East Africa were like the Germans in Europe, with enemies on all 
sides and blockaded by sea ; but the enemies were little more than 
a handful, and the encirclement was futile. Operating on interior 
lines, and with communications immensely superior to those of 
his opponents, the problem of Lettow-Vorbeck was at the start 
an easy one. The British forces had been drawn chiefly from 
India, and there were also one regular British infantry battalion, 
a number of battalions of the King's African Rifles, and various 
irregular units, mounted and unmounted, raised among the settlers. 
The little army was starved of men, for it was the British policy 

105 



io6 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Feb. 

that, as far as possible, no troops should be used in East Africa 
which could be employed in the main theatre in Europe ; as it was 
the aim of Lettow-Vorbeck to compel the opposite. 

In November 1914, as we have seen, General Aitken had failed 
signally at Tanga. In January 191 5 came a second British defeat 
at Jassin. In April of that year Major-General Tighe became 
Commander-in-Chief, but he had not the strength to begin serious 
ofTensive operations. During 1915 there were a number of minor 
engagements, chiefly on the Uganda side and in the south-west, 
where a small force was at work on the Rhodesia frontier, while 
Belgian troops were also busy on the Congo border. But at the be- 
ginning of 1916 the honours lay clearly with the Germans. They 
had their colony intact, as Governor von Schnee proudly proclaimed, 
and they believed that, since they were self-supporting, they could 
resist any reinforcements which the British could bring. Tropical 
Africa was their main defence ; climate and distance, swamps and 
mountains, were better safeguards than numbers and munitions. 
And they had cause for their confidence, for they had boldly kept 
the initiative. They were for ever raiding the Uganda and the 
Voi-Maktau railways, and in the gap of Kilimanjaro, the main gate 
of the north, they held Taveta and the 'line of the Lumi River 
inside British territory. 

In considering the remarkable achievements of General Smuts 
and his South African contingents, we must not forget the long, 
heartbreaking struggle of the troops, white and coloured, who held 
the fort till February 1916. For eighteen months they had borne 
the heat and burden of the climate, without chance of leave, without 
adequate supplies, with little to cheer them in their past record, 
and with no hope of an offensive in the future. One white officer, 
often in the early twenties, with a handful of natives, was left to 
patrol a long length of line in the face of vigilant and aggressive 
enemies. In that wide and solitary land there was none of the 
stimulus which comes from a consciousness of supports at call and 
neighbours near. The time was soon to come when the little army 
was caught up in a great movement, and swept the enemy's domain 
from all points of the compass. But let us recognize the desperate 
strain on mind and body of the far-flung lines of defence which dur- 
ing 191 5 sat in dreary and perilous vigil on the northern borders. 

At the beginning of 1916 East Africa was the only colony left 
to Germany. She had lost successively Togoland, South-West 
Africa, and the Cameroons, and she was the more determined to 
cling to her richest possession. She hoped by her victories over the 



I9i6] LETTOW-VORBECK 107 

Allies in Europe to be able to dictate terms as to Africa, and her 
terms were not less than a German domination from the Atlantic 
to the Indian Ocean, embracing British and German East Africa, 
the Belgian and French Congo, Angola, the Cameroons, Nigeria, 
and all West Africa to Cape Verde. Mittel-Afrika had taken as 
definite a shape as Mittel-Europa. She wished it strategically as 
a flank guard for her conquests in the Near East ; she wished it 
as a controlled producing ground of those raw materials which were 
disturbing the minds of her economists ; she wished it as a recruiting 
ground for an army of a million men, trained in theGerman fashion, 
which would terrorize the unwarlike peoples of the few African 
territories that remained to other Powers. She dreamed of a day 
when Mittel-Afrika would have a population of fifty million natives 
and half a million Germans ; when great cities would have sprung 
up on Chad and Tanganyika and the Congo ; and when the Lake 
Chad express, carrying a freight of German bagmen, would run 
regularly from Berlin. The Emperor had ordered his people in 
Africa to hold out to the last ; and, with such a dream before them, 
it was their business to yield nothing till the final victory in Europe 
should gain everything.* 

Lettow-Vorbeck's chief difficulty was likely to be shortage of 
arms and ammunition, for the large stock with which he began the 
war was bound to be depleted. He was fortunate, however, in 
receiving various unexpected windfalls. When the Konigsherg 
was destroyed by our warships in the Rufiji River in July 191 5, 
her ten 4-inch guns were saved and moved up country. We pro- 
claimed a blockade of the coast on February 28, 191 5 ; but three 
ships managed to get through — the ^(f/Mtow^toDar-es-Salaam in 
February 1915, the Rubens from Hamburg to Mansa Bay in April 
1915, and the Maria to Sudi Bay in March 1916. Ammunition 
was also manufactured in local workshops, as were other supplies 
— such as benzine, paraffin, leather, rubber, and quinine. All the 
resources of a rich colony were applied to the business of war. It 
is difficult to overpraise the vigour and adaptability of the German 
effort, and in Lettow-Vorbeck the colony had a commander of 
infinite resource, courage, and persistence. Before the arrival of 

* The German views on Africa will be found set out in General Smuts's ad- 
dress to the Royal Geographical Society {Geographical Journal, March 1918) 
in Emil Zimmermann's Das Deutsche Kaiserlich Mittel-Afrika als Grundlage 
einer neuen Deutschen Weltpolitik (191 7), translated into English by Edwyn 
Bevan, 1918 ; in Dr. Solf's article in the Colonial Calendar for 1917, and in his 
numerous speeches ; and in the article by Delbruck in the Preussische Jahf' 
bucher for February 1917. 



io8 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Feb. 

General Smuts he disposed in the field of a force larger and better 
equipped than the thin lines of the besiegers ; and even after the 
arrival of the South African contingents he had an army scarcely 
inferior to ours in effectives, better adapted for tropical warfare, 
and confronted with a far simpler problem. 

It was the first time in history that a British army had in a 
tropical wilderness encountered an enemy force officered by highly- 
trained Europeans. The combination meant that every advantage 
of terrain and climate would be most cunningly used against us. 
Since our aim was to conquer the country and expel the enemy 
or compel him to surrender, our offensive involved interminable 
marches in areas most unsuitable for a force with wheeled transport 
moving far from its base. In extent the colony was as large as 
Germany, Italy,Switzerland, Holland, and Denmark taken together. 
The coast line on the Indian Ocean was 470 miles long, the western 
frontier from Lake Victoria to Lake Nyasa some 700 miles, and from 
Dar-es-Salaam on the east to the terminus of the Central Railway 
at Tanganyika on the west the distance was 787 miles. The land 
rose in tiers from the eastern coastal plain to a plateau which broke 
down steeply towards the trough of the Central Lakes. In the 
north the frontier with British East Africa was for the most part a 
chain of mountains, the Usambara and Pare ranges culminating 
in the great massif of Kilimanjaro. The western border, between 
the lakes, was also mountainous ; so difficult that the Belgian force 
could not invade enemy territory direct from the Congo, but had 
to be moved north-east round the volcanic ranges to Uganda 
before they could find a starting-point. In the south-west a 
mountain range closed the gap between Lakes Tanganyika and 
Nyasa, and blocked the advance from North-Eastern Rhodesia. 
More notable still, a chain of ranges — the Nguru, Uluguru, and 
Mtumba mountains — lay from north to south on the edge of the 
plateau and the coastal plain, and so formed a series of rallying 
points for the enemy's defence. Two railways ran from east to 
west — those from Tanga to Moschi, and from Dar-es-Salaam to 
Tanganyika. Britain had but one sea base — Mombasa — and 
everything for the critical northern front had to be landed there. 
The struggle, wrote General Smuts, was largely a "campaign 
against Nature, in which climate, geography, and disease fought 
more effectively against us than the well-trained forces of the 
enemy." Of the character of the campaign he has also written : — 
"It is impossible for those unacquainted with German East Africa 
to realize the physical, transport, and supply difficulties of the advance 



I9i6] GENERAL SMUTS 109 

over this magnificent country of unrivalled scenery and fertility, 
consisting of great mountain systems alternating with huge plains; 
with a great rainfall and wide unbridged rivers in the regions of all 
the mountains, and insufficient surface water on the plains for the 
needs of an army; with magnificent bush and primeval forest every- 
where, pathless, trackless, except for the spoor of the elephant or the 
narrow footpath of the natives; the malarial mosquito everywhere 
except on the highest plateaux; everywhere belts infested with the 
deadly tsetse fly, which makes an end of all animal transport; the 
ground almost everywhere a rich black or red cotton soil, which any 
transport converts into mud in the rain or dust in the drought. In 
the rainy seasons, which occupy about half the year, much of the 
country becomes a swamp, and military movements become im- 
practicable. And everywhere the fierce heat of equatorial Africa, 
accompanied by a wild luxuriance of parasitic life, breeding tropical 
diseases in the unacclimatized whites. These conditions make Ufe 
for the white man in that country far from a pleasure trip : if, in 
addition, he has to make long marches on short rations, the trial be- 
comes very severe; if, above all, huge masses of men and material 
have to be moved over hundreds of miles in a great military expedition 
against a mobile and alert foe, the strain becomes unendurable. And 
the chapter of accidents in this region of the unknown! Unseasonable 
rains cut off expeditions for weeks from their supply bases; animals 
died by the thousand after passing through an unknown fly belt; 
mechanical transport got bogged in the marshes, held up by bridges 
washed away or mountain passes demohshed by sudden floods. And 
the gallant boys marching far ahead imder the pitiless African sun, 
with the fever raging in their blood, pressed ever on after the retreat- 
ing enemy, often on much-reduced rations and without any of the 
small comforts which in this region are real necessities. In the story 
of human endurance the campaign deserves a very special place; 
and the heroes who went through it vmcomplainingly, doggedly, are 
entitled to all recognition and reverence. Their Commander-in-Chief 
will remain eternally proud of them." 

I 

In the autumn of 191 5 Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, the former 
commander of the British Second Army in Flanders, had been 
appointed Commander-in-Chief of the forces in East Africa. Ac- 
companied by a large staff, he sailed for the Cape ; but there per- 
sistent ill-health compelled him to return to England. At the be- 
ginning of 19 16 the Hon. J. C. Smuts was appointed in his place, with 
the rank of lieutenant-general, and on 19th February he arrived at 
Mombasa. As we have seen in an earlier volume. General Smuts 
had conducted brilliantly the southern operations in the German 



no A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Feb. 

South-West African campaign, and he had since held the portfolio 
of Defence in the Union Government. In the South African War 
of 1 899-1 902 he had been one of the most mobile and successful 
of the Boer generals. As he put it whimsically : "I believe it is 
generally admitted that in the Boer War I covered more country 
than any other commander in the field on either side — and my 
movement was not always in the direction of the enemy ! " He 
had now to face the reverse problem — how to bring to book an 
evasive and swiftly-moving enemy in a country compared with 
which the High Veld was a parterre. 

Large contingents had been raised in South Africa, some of 
which had already arrived on the battleground. There were two 
formed divisions in the country, apart from the troops on the lakes 
and the Rhodesia and Nyasaland forces — the ist Division, under 
General Stewart, at Longido ; and the 2nd Division, under General 
Tighe, on the Voi-Maktau line. The enemy strength was estimated 
at 16,000 men, of whom 2,000 were white — a number slightly less 
than the army which Smuts now commanded — and its main force 
was concentrated in the Kilimanjaro region to bar the gates of the 
north. But since Lettow-Vorbeck had behind him the Tanga 
Railway and the good roads connecting it with the Central Railway, 
he was in a position to move troops with speed to the coastal plain, 
should a landing be threatened there. 

Smuts's first task was to decide upon a plan of campaign. 
Since Britain controlled the sea, it seemed the natural course to 
force a landing at Tanga and Dar-es-Salaam, and move into the 
interior along the railway lines. Such a course would give us at 
once much shorter communications with our bases at Durban and 
Cape Town, and would enable us to advance to the tableland by 
the valleys of the many east-flowing rivers. This was undoubtedly 
the plan which the enemy expected us to adopt, but he had to 
reckon with a master of the unexpected. Smuts decided to "drive " 
the country from north to south, while his subsidiary forces, British 
and Belgian, moved eastward from Lake Victoria, from Lake Kivu, 
from Tanganyika and Nyasa. It was a plan which at first sight 
seemed to verge on the impossible. In moving south he had to 
force the gap of Kilimanjaro, where the Germans were strongly 
entrenched ; he had to cross many rivers and lateral valleys ; he 
had to face three knots of difficult mountain-land ; above all, till 
he won the Tanga Railway, he must have one single precarious line 
of communications through Voi and Maktau. More : even with 
the Tanga Railway, even with the Central Railway in his hands, 



I9i6] THE KILIMANJARO GAP in 

his position would not be easy, for the enemy might be expected 
so to destroy these Hnes that they would take months to repair. 
Indeed, he could look for no certain additional communications till 
he found them by water on the Rufiji. 

But Smuts had good reason for his decision. His main forces 
were massed on the northern front, and there was no time before 
the rains came to alter General Tighe's dispositions. He knew, 
too, the deadly climate, and he did not wish to subject his men 
to the fevers of the coastal plain with the rains due in a month's 
time. So far as possible he hoped to fight on the high lands, or at 
any rate to have uplands adjacent for rest camps and hospitals. 
Again, he wished to split the enemy country, as Sherman spht the 
Confederacy by his march through Georgia. If his main force 
took the central road from north to south, and subsidiary armies 
pressed in from the west, and in due course detachments landed on 
the coast and pushed westward, the enemy would be caught, not 
between two but between a multitude of fires. He knew the 
difficulty of rounding up a mobile force and clearing a savage 
country, and he was well aware that it could not be achieved by 
a stately progress against a fully warned enemy. He wanted a 
surprise, a series of surprises, for no Fabian strategy could effect 
his purpose. Therefore he adopted a plan which Lettow-Vorbeck 
had not dreamed of, and flung himself into the wilds, trusting to 
good fortune to pick up new communications as he proceeded. It 
was a plan only possible for a commander who had implicit faith 
in himself and in his men. "I am sure," he wrote, "it was not 
possible to conduct the camping successfully in any other way. 
Hesitation to take risks, slower moves, closer inspection of the 
auspices, would only have meant the same disappearance of my 
men from fever and other tropical diseases, without any corre- 
sponding compensation to show in the defeat of the enemy and the 
occupation of his country." 

The first step was to force the passage between the flanks of 
Kilimanjaro and the Pare mountains. Before his arrival General 
Tighe had done good work in the way of preparation. The 1st 
Division had occupied Longido and linked it up with the railhead 
at Lake Magadi, and the 2nd Division had taken Serengeti. The 
railway from Voi was slowly creeping forward towards Maktau. 
After a careful reconnaissance Smuts resolved to attack at once, in 
order to achieve his purpose before the heavy rains began in the 
end of March. Across the mouth of the gap, between Kilimanjaro 
and the Pare mountains, ran the river Lumi, joining the Ruwu, 



112 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [March 

which flowed from Lake Jipe along the northern base of the Pare. 
On this Hne the enemy held an apparently impregnable position. 
Clearly there was no way of turning it on the south, for the Pare 
cliffs rose sheer from the river. Smuts's plan was to direct the 
1st Division, under General Stewart, from Longido across thirty- 
five miles of waterless bush to the gap between Muer and Kiliman- 
jaro, and thence to the place called Somali Hauser, west of Moschi. 
They were then to move south-east to Kahe, on the Tanga Railway, 
in the hope of cutting off the retreat of the enemy in the gap. 
The 2nd Division, under General Tighe, was to attack in front 
towards Taveta, assisted on the right by the 1st South African 
Mounted Brigade, under General Van Deventer. 

The 1st Division started at dusk on 5th March, Van Deventer 
moved out by night on the 7th, and the 2nd Division advanced 
at dawn on the 8th. After a sharp fight at Salaitahill, the Lumi 
was crossed and Taveta reached on the loth. The enemy made a 
stand in the pass of the Kitowo hills between Latema and Reata, 
and after a long struggle was driven out by the 2nd Division on the 
night of the nth. On the 12th Van Deventer, moving on the 
skirts of Kilimanjaro, crossed the Himo River, and on the 13th 
reached New Moschi, the railway terminus. On the 15th he was 
in Old Moschi, higher up in the hills. On the 14th the ist Division 
reached New Moschi, while the 2nd Division held a line from the 
Latema Pass to the Himo. The enemy's position in the gap had 
been turned, and he was retreating towards the Ruwu and the 
Tanga Railway. 

The next step was to secure the Ruwu crossings, and to do it 
in time to intercept the retreat of his main body ; but there was 
much difficult broken country between us and the river. Van 
Deventer was ordered to march by night and cross the Pangani 
south of Kahe station, as as to get in rear of the enemy's position, 
while the ist Division advanced direct on the Ruwu. By daylight 
on the 2 1st Van Deventer was fording the Pangani, and presently 
had seized Kahe hill. He then occupied the station, while the 
enemy blew up the railway bridge. This cut off Lettow-Vorbeck's 
retreat by the railway west of the Pare range, and the only hope 
for the Germans on the Ruwu was the Lake Jipe route east of the 
mountains. If the 1st Division, now under General Sheppard, 
could but ford the Ruwu in time, a comprehensive disaster would 
follow. At 1 1 .30 a.m. on the 21st Sheppard was pressing forw^ard ; 
but the Germans fought stubborn rearguard actions, and in the 
thick bush progress was slow. That night the enemy slipped across 



I9i6] VAN DEVENTER'S MARCH 113 

the Ruwu, and so secured his retirement by Lake Jipe. On the 
same day, the 21st, Aruscha, fifty miles west of Moschi, was occupied 
by a party of Van Deventer's scouts. The pass had been forced, 
the whole area north of the Ruwu was cleared, and a base in enemy 
country had been won before the rains for the next move forward. 
The great mountain, whose chief peak bore the name of the German 
Emperor, was in our hands. The Commander-in-Chief moved 
his headquarters to Moschi, and prepared for the second stage. 

II 

It was now the end of March, but still the rains tarried. Smuts 
made all possible haste to improve his communications against the 
wet weather by pushing on the railway from Voi across the Lumi 
to link up with the Tanga line. He relied mainly on motor trans- 
port, and, once the rains began, that would be useless. He effected 
a complete reorganization of his command, abolishing the old two 
divisions and disposing his troops in three divisions — two made 
up wholly of South African contingents, and one containing the 
Indian and British forces. Under the new arrangement the 1st 
Division, under Major-General Hoskins, comprised the 1st East 
African Brigade, under Brigadier-General Sheppard, and the 2nd 
East African Brigade, under Brigadier-General Hannyngton. 
The 2nd Division, under Major-General Van Deventer, contained 
the 1st South African Mounted Brigade, under Brigadier-General 
Manie Botha, and the 3rd South African Infantry Brigade, under 
Brigadier-General C. A. L. Berrange. The 3rd Division, under 
Major-General Brits, had the 2nd South African Mounted Brigade, 
under Brigadier-General Enslin,and the 2nd South African Infantry 
Brigade, under Brigadier-General Beves. 

This done, the Commander-in-Chief considered his next step. 
Reviewing the various possibilities, he concluded that the main 
enemy force had retired into the Pare and Usambara mountains, 
expecting to be followed. He resolved to disappoint them, and 
to strike at the unguarded interior. He would send Van Deventer 
with the 2nd Division straight towards Kondoa Irangi, which 
would compel Lettow-Vorbeck to weaken his force in the mountains 
on the Tanga line, and enable the other two divisions, he hoped, 
to conquer the ranges. To this decision he was helped by the 
fact that the coming rainy season would be worst in the mountain 
area, and that if he moved swiftly south he need not bring operations 
to a standstill during April and May. Meantime, he arranged that 



114 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [April 

the 2,000 British rifles under Lieutenant-Colonel Adye on Lake 
Victoria, and the large Belgian forces around Lake Kivu, should 
begin to press in from the western border. 

Van Deventer started from Aruscha on 3rd April, and that 
night captured the hill and wells of Lol Kissale, thirty-five miles 
to the south. Starting again on the 8th, his horsemen arrived 
at Tarangire on the 9th, and at Ufiome on the 12th. He was now 
more than half-way to his goal, but the rains had begun, and 
progress was difficult. His horses were greatly exhausted, and 
it was not till the 17th that touch was found with the main enemy 
position, four miles north of Kondoa Irangi. At noon on the 
19th the place fell. It was a magnificent forced march, involving 
severe privations and immense fatigue. The incessant rain had 
made cooking impossible ; there had been no rations, and the 
men had lived on scraps of meat and meal, and the animals on 
mealie stalks and grass. The 2nd Division had come to the end 
of its tether, and Van Deventer had to wait for remounts before 
he could move. The most he could do was to push out patrols 
towards the Central Railway in the south and Handeni in the east. 
He was cut loose from his base, and had to live on local supplies ; 
which, fortunately, were plentiful, for the Kondoa Irangi plateau 
was full of cattle and renowned for its fertility. The capture of 
the place had seriously discomposed the enemy. Lettow-Vorbeck 
moved a force of 4,000 from the Usambara Mountains by way 
of Mombo, Morogoro, and Dodoma, and on the 7th of May attacked 
Van Deventer's 3,000 weary troops from the south. By the loth 
the attack had been beaten off, and no further serious offensive 
was attempted by the German commander. Van Deventer's march 
to Kondoa Irangi was, strategically, perhaps the most significant 
episode in the campaign, as it was certainly the most picturesque. 

A few days later the 1st and 3rd Divisions began their advance 
down the Tanga Railway, the first force of the rains having slackened 
and the ground hardened. Smuts's plan was to move eastward 
to a point opposite Handeni, and then to swing south against the 
Central Railway on a line parallel to Van Deventer's. It was 
essential to move fast, while the enemy was still vainly battling 
at Kondoa Irangi. There were large German forces in the Pare 
and Usambara mountains ; but Smuts hoped to march down the 
Pangani (which flows twenty miles south of the hills) , and to occupy 
Handeni before reinforcements could reach it from the west and 
north. It was a bold plan, for he condemned his main body to 
move through dense bush with an unfordable river on its right. 



I9i6] CAPTURE OF HANDENI 115 

In that advance went Sheppard's and Beves's brigades,* while 
as flank guards Hannyngton's brigade of Indian troops moved 
along the railway just under the hills ; and the 3rd King's African 
Rifles, under Lieutenant-Colonel Fitzgerald, made a circuit north 
of the Pare range in order to descend on the railway through the 
Ngulu gap. 

Lettow-Vorbeck's askaris knew the country well, but we had 
in our service many old Boer and British hunters who had as much 
bush lore as any native. These men did brilliant work in that 
difficult descent of the Pangani valley. Fitzgerald started on 
1 8th May; Hannyngton's brigade and the main column on the 
22nd. On the 25th Hannyngton had occupied Same station, and 
next day Fitzgerald joined him through the Ngulu gap. This 
turned the enemy's first position at Lembini, which was taken by 
Hoskins without a blow. On the 31st of May Buiko station, 
where the Pangani and the railway meet, was occupied, and the 
enemy was in retreat to Mombo, whence ran a trolley line to Han- 
deni. This made it clear that the Germans did not propose to 
defend the Usambara range, but were retiring by Handeni to the 
Central Railway. To Hannyngton was left the task of clearing 
the near end of those hills, which he did by advancing to Mombo 
on the 9th of June, occupying Wilhelmstal (the summer seat of 
the German Government) on the 12th, and reaching Korogwe on 
the 15th. The main force had meantime crossed to the right 
bank of the Pangani. Beves's brigade executed a turning move- 
ment towards the west by Ssangeni, while Sheppard's brigade on 
the 19th entered Handeni itself. Next day he was joined by 
Hannyngton from Korogwe. 

In Handeni we had a second strategic base, parallel to Kondoa 
Irangi, for our advance on the Central Railway; and now that 
we held it, the enemy at Kondoa was wholly cut off from the 
north. Smuts's line of communications was getting very long, for 
he had not yet opened up another sea base, and rations and com- 
forts were terribly short among his wearied men. But the inde- 
fatigable spirit of the Commander-in-Chief was communicated to 
the army, and he was able to induce them to still further exertions 
when it seemed that they had already passed the limit of their 
strength. From a military point of view he was right to press 
on, for delay might lose him the fruit of his remarkable successes. 
On the 20th he moved to Kangata, for he heard that the enemy 
was in position on the Lukigura River. A column under Hoskins 
* General Brits, of the 3rd Division, did not arrive till the end of June. 



ii6 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [July 

was dispatched in a flanking movement, while Sheppard attacked 
in front, and on the 24th the Une was won. Here, perforce, a halt 
must be called. Since 22nd May the troops had marched over 
200 miles in desperate country, and the transport system had 
reached the extreme radius of its capacity. The Nguru range of 
mountains lay before them, and it appeared that there the enemy 
was massing in force. Moreover, it was desirable to bring Van 
Deventer and the 2nd Division farther forward to conform with 
the advance of the main force, before a combined movement could 
be undertaken against the Central Railway. Accordingly a big 
standing camp was formed on the Msiha River, eight miles beyond 
the Lukigura, and just under the north-east buttress of the Nguru 
hills. 

The enemy had virtually evacuated the Usambara hills, and 
on 7th July Tanga was occupied, with the help of the Navy, almost 
without opposition. Small guerilla bands still hung around the 
Korogwe neighbourhood ; but during July the country was cleared 
by an advance from Tanga and Pangani, and by a movement of 
Hannyngton from the south. To complete our hold on the north, 
Sadani Bay was occupied by our Navy qn 1st August, and Baga- 
moyo on the 15th, and the way was thus prepared for the larger 
advance on Dar-es-Salaam. 

On the western marches the Belgians, under General Tombeur, 
having moved their base from Kibati, north of Lake Kivu, to 
Bukakate, on Lake Victoria, had occupied Kigali, the capital of 
the Ruanda province, and the British "Lake detachment" had 
taken the island of Ukerewe, in Lake Victoria. Sir Charles Crewe 
was now appointed to the Lake command, and occupied during 
June the Bukoba and Karagwe districts of Ruanda. On 14th July 
he compelled the enemy to evacuate Mwanza, his most important 
town on the lake, and so won a valuable base for a future move- 
ment on Tabora. The readiness with which the enemy gave up 
this area compelled Smuts to revise his views. He had formerly 
thought that Tabora would be the goal of Lettow-Vorbeck's re- 
treat ; he now reached the conclusion that it would either be south- 
eastwards to the Rufiji delta, or south to the Mahenge plateau. 

HI 

The Msiha camp was an uneasy resting-place. The enemy 
in the mountains to the south kept up a persistent shelling, and 
the troops had to burrow for shelter into the ground. But the halt 



I9I6] THE CENTRAL RAILWAY REACHED 117 

was of real advantage, for It enabled weary units to rest, and 
allowed them to collect reserves of supplies and to receive reinforce- 
ments from South Africa of both guns and infantry. Meanwhile 
Van Deventer had begun to move on 24th June, in order to come 
into line with the rest of the army, and to co-operate in reducing 
the Nguru position. He broke up the enemy's lines south of Kon- 
doa, which had already been weakened by the transference of troops 
to Nguru. His immediate objective was now the Central Railway ; 
but his advance was so arranged that it should also have a bearing 
on the Nguru situation, and intercept the main enemy force as 
they fell back from the hills. On 20th July a column moved 
westward and occupied Ssingida. On 14th July a column started 
due south, and after a stiff encounter at Mpondi reached Saranda 
and Kilimatinde, and so got astride the Central Railway. Van 
Deventer's main forces advanced to the south-east, the mounted 
brigade under Manie Botha being diverted on Kikombo, and Ber- 
range's infantry by way of Njangalo upon Dodoma. Njangalo 
was reached on 25th July and Kikombo on the 30th. The end 
of July saw a hundred miles of the Central Railway in our posses- 
sion, and though every bridge and culvert had been destroyed, 
the enemy had not had time to do serious damage to the track. 

The much-tried 2nd Division had done marvels, but its pre- 
carious line of supply from Moschi had now been lengthened by 
another 100 miles, and its next objective, Kilossa, was a further 
120 miles on. Nevertheless, with scarcely a halt, it pushed down 
the railway. It partially solved its transport problem by narrow- 
ing the gauge of its heavy lorries, so that they could run on rail- 
way trolley wheels. Mpapua was taken on 12th August, Kidete 
on the 1 6th, and Kilossa on the 22nd. During July, too, the 
Belgians and the British Lake detachment had been steadily 
drawing near to Tabora. Ujiji and Kigoma, on the shores of 
Tanganyika, had been occupied, and Ruchugi, on the line to 
Tabora; while from the north-west a column was approaching 
St. Michael. General Northey, in the south-west, had taken 
Malangali, and was moving on Iringa. Lettow-Vorbeck had 
now but one direction of retreat left to him — the south. 

It was time for Smuts's main force to advance and clear the 
Nguru hills. The mountain region was some fifty miles long from 
north to south, and about twenty-five miles broad, and had on 
the north-east a subsidiary feature in the shape of Mount Kanga, 
between which and the Nguru massif the Mdjonga River flowed 
south to join the Wami. It was a region of narrow wooded defiles, 



ii8 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Aug. 

rushing streams, and tracks winding on the edge of precipices — ■ 
an ideal country for any defensive. Smuts's plan was to send 
Sheppard's brigade against the main Kanga position, while Han- 
nyngton's brigade advanced on its right down the Mdjonga valley 
on Matamondo and Turiani. Brits's 3rd Division was ordered 
to fetch a circuit round the north end of the mountains, and close 
in upon Mdondo from the west. Brits started on 5th August, 
Hannyngton on the 6th, and Sheppard on the 7th. Sheppard 
feinted against the main enemy front at Kanga, but his left wing 
moved six miles east so as to turn the mountain and come in on 
the enemy rear at the Russongo River. Enslin, with the mounted 
troops of Brits's division, occupied Mdondo on the 8th ; but re- 
ported that the hill roads were impossible for wheeled trafific, with 
the result that all the transport had to be sent back to the Luki- 
guru to follow Sheppard. Hannyngton reached Matamondo on 
the 9th, where he found himself strongly opposed. Beves's brigade 
was accordingly sent to support him, and meantime Enslin at 
Mdondo was threatening the enemy's rear and compelling him to 
think of retreat. 

Had the whole 3rd Division been able to reach Mdondo, the 
Matamondo force might have been cut off. As it was, after severe 
fighting on the loth and nth, that force fell back, and on the 
nth Sheppard reached the Russongo River, to find the enemy 
gone. He then marched south to Kipera, on the river Wami, 
while Brits and Hannyngton reached Turiani. By the 15th Brits 
and Hannyngton were clear of the Nguru hills, and on the i8th 
the whole British force was at Dakawa, at the crossing of the 
Wami. The enemy was retreating partly on Kilossa, but mainly 
on Morogoro. On the 22nd, as we have seen. Van Deventer 
reached Kilossa, so Morogoro became the only refuge. 

Smuts had hopes of bringing Lettow-Vorbeck to bay at Moro- 
goro, and denying him retreat to the south. The place, which 
stands on a tributary of the Ngerengere, was protected from the 
Dakawa direction by a long line of hills, and had the Uluguru 
mountains behind it. To force him to fight. Smuts devised an 
elaborate outflanking plan. Enslin, with the 2nd Mounted Brigade, 
was to make for the Central Railway at Mkata, to cut ofif the out- 
let to the west ; while the main force marched south-east, in order 
to approach Morogoro by way of the Ngerengere valley, and to 
cut the enemy's retreat to the east by Kiroka. Enslin duly reached 
Mkata on the 23rd and Mlali on the 24th, where he received in 
support the 1st Mounted Brigade, now under Brigadier-General 



I9i6] CROSSING OF THE RUWU 119 

Nussey, from Van Deventer's 2nd Division. Unfortunately there 
was a track, unknown to us, which led due south from Morogoro 
through the mountains to Kissaki, and by this way Lettow-Vorbeck 
escaped. On the 24th we reached the Ngerengere, on the 26th 
Hannyngton was at Mkesse, on the east, and the same day Shep- 
pard entered Morogoro. But the enemy had gone, and gone 
precipitately, to judge by burning storehouses and the railway 
platform deep in spilt coffee. 

Though both men and animals were well-nigh worn out, Smuts 
pressed hard on his trail. On the 27th Sheppard was in Kiroka, 
and by the 30th the enemy was behind the little river Ruwu. 
The struggle for the Uluguru range was one of the hardest in the 
campaign. Brits's 3rd Division moved on the west side, with 
Enslin's Mounted Brigade on his left among the hills, while Hos- 
kins's 1st Division took the eastern flank. Lettow-Vorbeck fought 
stout rearguard actions, excellently -supported by the nature of 
the country. "The road," wrote Smuts, "passes through very 
difficult broken foothills, covered either with bush or grass grow- 
ing from six to twelve feet high, through which any progress was 
slow, painful, and difficult. The bridging of the Ruwu took several 
days, and for some distance beyond the road passes along the face 
of precipitous rocks round which the enemy had constructed a 
gallery on piles to afford a track for his transport. As the gallery 
would not carry our mechanical transport, it took us some days 
to blast away the mountain side and construct a proper road." 
Tulo was not reached till loth September, and Hannyngton, who 
led the vanguard, drove the enemy south of the Mgeta River on 
the 13th. It was clear, from the heavy gun ammunition left behind , 
that Lettow-Vorbeck had contemplated an elaborate defence of 
the Uluguru range; but the speed of the 1st Division, and the 
unexpected appearance of Enslin's troops at Mlali, had forced him 
to change his plans. Brits and Enslin followed the elephant track 
by Mahalaka which Speke and Burton had taken in 1857. On 
the 5th of September they were close on Kissaki, and it was decided 
to attack the place with Beves's infantry brigade, Enslin's mounted 
brigade of the 3rd Division, and Nussey's mounted brigade of the 
2nd Division, which had been lent to Brits. The attack failed, 
because it was badly timed, the three units did not act together, 
and the thick bush prevented assistance being sent from one to 
the other. It was not till the 15th of September that, Han- 
nyngton having taken Dutumi, eighteen miles to the east, Enslin 
managed to outflank the position and threaten the retreat to 



120 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Sept. 

the Rufiji. The enemy fell back on a defensive line along the Mgeta 
River. 

During this period of hard fighting astride the Central Rail- 
way, the situation on the coast was being rapidly improved.^ Briga- 
dier-General Edwards, the Inspector-General of Communications, 
moved south from Bagamoyo with two columns, one along the 
Ruwu River towards the Central Railway, and the other direct 
on Dar-es-Salaam. British warships appeared off the coast, and 
on 3rd September the German capital surrendered. The time had 
now come to occupy the whole coast, so, with the assistance of 
the Navy, Mikindani was seized on 13th September, Sudi Bay on 
the 15th, Lindi on the i6th, and Kilwa and Kilwa Kissiwani on 
the 7th. Kilwa was an important base, and a strong column was 
landed there for operations along the Matandu River and in the 
Mtumbi mountains. Dar-es-Salaam was also a vital centre, and 
from it the work of restoring the eastern end of the railway, most 
comprehensively wrecked by the Germans, was carried on. Be- 
tween the sea and Kilossa our Pioneer Corps had to rebuild no 
less than sixty bridges. 

At the same time Van Deventer was npt idle. On 28th August 
he had taken Uleia, and by 3rd September was at Kikumi. On 
the loth he was at Kidodi, on the Great Ruaha River, where he 
found the enemy in position. General Northey, too, had occupied 
Lupembe on 19th August and Iringa on the 29th, and was moving 
upon the Mahenge plateau from the west ; while on the south he 
had taken Ssongea, eighteen miles east of Wiedhafen, on Lake 
Nyasa. Farther north Sir Charles Crewe and General Tombeur 
were converging on Tabora, which was entered by the Belgians 
on 19th September. The German garrison there fell back towards 
the upper waters of the Great Ruaha, where they had to face 
both Van Deventer and Northey. 

One other episode remains to be mentioned. On March 9, 
1916, Portugal, the oldest ally of Britain, had declared war on 
Germany. Her main military effort was to be on the Flanders 
front, where presently she had two divisions in line with the British. 
But since her colony of Mozambique bordered German East Africa 
on the south, she played some small part also in this campaign. 
Her troops, under General Gil, crossed the frontier, the Rovuma 
River, and occupied various points on its northern shore. As it 
was evident that Lettow-Vorbeck's retreat would be to the south- 
ward, the Portuguese forces must sooner or later come into action. 
The position at the end of September was that in little more 



I9i6] REORGANISATION OF BRITISH FORCES 121 

than six months the German hold on East Africa had been nar- 
rowed down to the area between the Rufiji and Mgeta Rivers in 
the north-east, and the Great Ruaha and Ulanga Rivers in the 
south-west. Outside this area the enemy's only troops were the 
Tabora garrison, now making its painful way eastward, and a small 
detachment between Dar-es-Salaam and the Rufiji. With the 
exception of the Mahenge plateau, he had lost every healthy dis- 
trict of the colony. He was dwelling now in fever swamps, while 
the bulk of our troops were on higher ground. But Smuts's gallant 
forces were woefully exhausted, and far from comfortable in the 
way of supplies. The fighting front was fed from the railhead at 
Korogwe, west of Tanga, and everything had to be brought 300 
miles by hill paths and bush tracks. Often the ration problem 
became acute. At Kissaki, for example, a sudden storm of rain 
destroyed the roads, and for a fortnight our troops there lived off 
native millet and the flesh of hippos shot in the Mgeta River. 
Tsetse fly had played havoc with our transport animals, and large 
numbers of men were down with malaria. The 3rd Division had 
to be sent back to Morogoro to recover strength ; and though 
we harassed the enemy on the Mgeta line, major operations were 
for the time being at an end. 

IV 

The rest of the campaign, it was evident, would be in an un- 
healthy country, and it was necessary to have medical reports 
on the fitness of the troops. As a result, 12,000 men were sent 
back to South Africa as unfit for further campaigning. By way 
of reinforcements, the one British regular battalion (Loyal North 
Lancashires) returned from the Cape at full strength, and the 
Nigerian Brigade, under Brigadier-General Cunliffe, arrived in Nov- 
ember. It was calculated that by the end of the year the worst 
part of the transport difificulties would be overcome by the opening 
of the Central Railway for traffic between Dar-es-Salaam and 
Dodoma. The enemy's main force lay facing us north of the Rufiji, 
and if compelled to retire, he must fall back either on Mahenge 
or into Portuguese territory. To force the crossing of the Rufiji 
was no light task, for it was more than a quarter of a mile wide. 
Smuts's aim was to cut oflf the Rufiji force from Mahenge, and at 
the same time prevent its retirement to the south. Accordingly, 
he established a base at Kilwa, on the coast, from which columns 
could work north and north-west. He hoped to cross the Rufiji 



122 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Jan. 

somewhere well to the west of Kibambawe, in order to bar the 
road to Mahenge and then join hands with the Kilwa column, so 
as to close in on the enemy's rear. 

General Hannyngton yielded up the command of the 2nd East 
African Brigade to Colonel O'Grady, and took over the Kilwa force, 
which was now called the 3rd East African Brigade. There 
were other changes. The 3rd Division was disbanded, the Lake 
detachment ceased to exist, Van Deventer's command was re- 
organized, and reinforcements were sent to Northey. The situation 
in the area of the last-named during October became interesting, for 
the Tabora garrison succeeded in breaking through and cutting 
the communications between Northey 's main body andthelringa 
troops. A small British post at Ngominji was surrounded and 
taken prisoner. There were various minor actions at Madibira, 
Malingali, and Lupembe, in which the enemy lost heavily. In 
November Smuts visited that area, and instructed Van Deventer 
to base himself on Iringa and Northey on Lupembe, and between 
them force the enemy beyond the Ruhudje and Ulanga Rivers. 
Meantime Hannyngton at Kilwa had done good work in clearing 
the Matandu valley and the southern slopes of the Mtumbi moun- 
tains. In November the whole 1st Division, less Sheppard's 
brigade, was transferred to Kilwa, with General Hoskins in com- 
mand. There during December there was a good deal of fighting, 
but by the close of the year Hoskins felt himself in a position 
to advance towards the lower Rufiji when our main forces should 
attack. Meantime the Portuguese were driven off the north bank 
of the Rovuma, and it was clear that if Lettow-Vorbeck broke 
out in that direction he would meet with no serious opposition. 

The great advance was ordered for New Year's Day, 1917. 
The plan of it was that Beves's brigade should move to the west 
and cross the Rufiji just below its junction with the Ruaha, and 
that Sheppard and Cunliffe should make a similar fianking move- 
ment on the east. The vital part was that of Beves. On the 
night of the 2nd he was only twelve miles from the great river, 
and at dawn on the 3rd had crossed and established a bridgehead 
on the southern bank. On the 5th Sheppard, after hard fighting, 
in which the most famous of African hunters, Captain F. C. Selous, 
fell at the head of his company, reached Kibambawe, to find that 
the enemy had crossed, afterwards destroying the bridge. That 
night he managed to effect a crossing a little higher up, in the course 
of which he had to deal with some truculent hippos, and next night 
the passage was continued till the 30th Punjabis were established 



1917] SMUTS LEAVES EAST AFRICA 123 

on the south shore. Beves meanwhile was making good his hold 
as far as Luhembero, and Cunliffe's brigade was ordered to follow 
him. The enemy had been completely outmanoeuvred, and with 
few casualties we had won the Rufiji crossing. 

The situation now was that the Tabora garrison had slipped 
away from both Northey and Van Deventer, and was making for 
Mahenge, while Lettow-Vorbeck had got across the Rufiji without 
being forced to action. It showed the impossibility of surrounding 
an enemy in such country; he could be driven back, but not 
brought to a standstill. Meantime Hoskins's force from Kilwa 
was steadily advancing to the north-west. Smuts, reviewing the 
situation, saw that between Cunliffe on the Rufiji and Hannyngton 
at Ngarambi there was a gap of some forty miles, the only outlet 
through which the enemy could escape. If the two could join 
hands at Lugaliro the trap might be closed. Failing such a success, 
there must be a converging movement from the Rufiji and Kilwa 
upon Liwale in the south. 

But Smuts was not suffered to conclude the campaign which 
he had devised. He was summoned to England to the Imperial 
War Conference, and left Dar-es-Salaam on the 26th of January. 



The new Commander-in-Chief was Lieutenant-General Hoskins, 
formerly of the 1st Division. With his accession to command the 
campaign took on a new phase. The main problem had been 
solved ; the country had been virtually conquered ; all the chief 
centres were in our hands ; the worst transport difificulties had 
been surmounted ; and the enemy had become a hunted remnant. 
But the colony was not yet cleared, and it was to take many weary 
months before the last man of Lettow-Vorbeck's following crossed 
the Rovuma. The difificulty now was that, with the exception of 
Mahenge, there were no such strategical objectives as had been 
offered by Moschi, Tabora, or Dar-es-Salaam. The campaign had 
become a man-hunt, a chase of a new De Wet, with difificulties be- 
fore it which no British commander had dreamed of in 1902. 

The operations of 191 7 may be briefly summarized. During Jan- 
uary the central forces advanced east and south from the Rufiji, 
where the enemy fought stubborn rearguard actions, while the 
Kilwa force pushed west into the Rufiji delta from Mohoro, and 
Northey drove the enemy from the high ground east of Lupembe. 
The situation remained unchanged during the rains — the longest 



124 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [May-Nov. 

and heaviest ever known in that country — save that under our 
pressure there was a steady trickling of German troops southwards 
both from the Rufiji and Mahenge. In the beginning of May the 
enemy was in two main bodies — one between 4,000 and 5,000 
strong, under Lettow-Vorbeck himself, in the Matandu valley, to 
which had been added the troops driven out of the Rufiji delta ; 
and one under Tafel, some 2,000 or 3,000 strong, based on Mahenge. 
Occasionally, and especially in the west, oddments broke back 
northward, and these were pursued and accounted for by our 
mounted men. One isolated party, foraging in search of food, 
had reached Portuguese territory ; and one large body, 600 strong, 
under a certain Naumann, gave trouble north of the Central Rail- 
way, and was not disposed of till October. These latter raiders 
covered in their travels about 2,000 miles, having started from the 
Nyasa neighborhood in February, and passed through Itunda, 
crossing the railway east of Tabora in May. They had a brush 
with the Belgians east of Lake Victoria, and then visited in turn 
Lake Magadi, Kondoa Irangi, Handeni, and Moschi, being finally 
brought to bay in the middle of the Massai steppe. Naumann may 
have been a brute, but his enterprise was a bold one. "Such 
a raid," wrote General Van Deventer, "could perhaps only have 
been carried out in a country like German East Africa, where the 
bush is often so thick that two considerable forces may pass within 
a mile unaware of each other's presence, and where a ruthless leader 
of a small force can nearly always live on the country." 

Hoskins had reorganized his forces on sound principles, when at 
the end of May Van Deventer took over from him the supreme com- 
mand. The latter in person led the main army against Lettow- 
Vorbeck's eastern force ; while Northey, with the assistance of a Bel- 
gian contingent, closed in on Tafel's western force in the Mahenge 
area, shepherding northwards the bands that were making for Portu- 
guese Nyasaland. In July there was hard fighting in the Kilwa 
district, and Lettow-Vorbeck was slowly driven south from the 
Matandu River towards Lindi. Early in October the Belgians occu- 
pied the Mahenge plateau, and moved southward in touch with our 
troops advancing from the west. The doom of Tafel's western de- 
tachment was now assured. He tried to join hands with Lettow- 
Vorbeck by going east through the wild country north of the 
Rovuma ; but on 26th November discovered that his way was 
barred. He attempted to break back, failed, and on 28th November 
surrendered unconditionally. By the beginning of the same month 
Lettow-Vorbeck was driven south-west of Lindi. There was no 



B-ft-KT JL/S H 



THE EAST AFRICAN CAMPAIGN. 

{Facing p. JJ4.) 




.MOIAqMAO MAOmiA T8A3 3HT 



1917] THE COLONY CLEARED 125 

other course before him but precipitate flight, and, moving with 
great speed, he reached the Rovuma, where the Portuguese posts 
were of no avail to hold him. With some 2,000 men he crossed the 
river on 25th and 26th November, and the colony of German East 
Africa was clear of its former masters. 

The ten months since Smuts's departure had been no less a 
trial of fortitude than the ten months of his command. The 
weather had been bad, sickness was rife, and "a brigade which 
could put 1,400 rifles into the firing-line considered itself singularly 
fortunate. " Between May and November the British casualties 
in action alone had been close on 6,000 ; but, to set against these, 
1,618 Germans and 5,482 natives had been killed or captured. It 
had been a bitter struggle, and before it ceased nine-tenths of the 
enemy's white and black personnel had either perished or been 
taken prisoner. "My predecessors," wrote Van Deventer, "have 
well described the difficulties of advancing through tropical Africa 
against an enemy in possession of interior lines who can advance 
and retire along carefully prepared lines of supply. As the area 
of operations diminished, so the potential advantages of these 
interior lines increased, and the fiercer became the fighting. The 
moral of the enemy never wavered, and nothing but the determined 
gallantry and endurance of our troops finally crushed him. To the 
infantry — British, South African, Indian, West and East African 
— I owe unqualified thanks and praise, and especially to the regi- 
mental officers, who set an example which all have followed."* 

VI 

The campaign in German East Africa must rank as unique 
among the operations of the Great War. It was the boldest 
"drive" ever undertaken in modern warfare, having regard both 
to the size of the country and the intricacy of its configuration. 
In it the fantastic was of daily occurrence. Outposts driven in 
by lions, river crossings confused by nervous hippos, engagements 
with the enemy disorganized by impartial attacks of rhinos against 
both sides — where else could such incidents be found? It was 
a blending of the hoar-ancient and the ultra-modern — airplanes, 
barbed wire, and machine guns, with the staked pit which had been 
the device of neolithic man. And as a background it had the 

* Lettow-Vorbeck held out in Portuguese territory till the Armistice, when 
he surrendered to Van Deventer. His force was by that time reduced to 154 
Europeans and 1,156 askaris, and his casualties had for some time been 10 per 
cent, per month. 



126 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Nov. 

brooding terrors of the equatorial climate, death lurking in pool 
and swamp, in arid bush and ferny ravine, on mountain lawn and 
in lush valley. 

From the military point of view it was a remarkable performance, 
and the credit belonged to both combatants. The young staff 
officer from Posen showed a true genius for war, far greater than 
that of many belauded German generals in Europe. He played 
what cards he possessed with masteriy skill, a supreme patience, 
and a reasonable chivalry.* On the British side the task was akin 
to that in South-West Africa and in the Cameroons, but harder 
inasmuch as the country was larger and more inaccessible and the 
enemy better prepared. No campaign in tropical lands in British 
history had offered so difficult a problem, for in none had the enemy 
possessed such highly-trained European officers. In transport diffi- 
culties alone it outdistanced all our former expeditions on the Indian 
border, in West Africa, or on the Nile. Indeed, it combined the 
difficulties both of a civilized and a savage war. We had to face 
modern weapons and modern strategy ; but a decision could not be 
secured merely by defeating the enemy, for he could fade away 
into dim forests, and find shelter in the ancient inorganic barbarism 
of the land. 

The chief credit belongs to General Smuts, and one principal 
reason of his success was that he put his whole soul into it, that he 
treated it as a major operation of the first importance, and was as 
resolute to complete the work as if the war had been confined to 
that one area. Without his fiery energy, his far-reaching strategical 
grasp, and his quick imagination, we should speedily have reached 
a stalemate ; and in two years, instead of clearing the country, 
have advanced perhaps to the Wami, perhaps only to the Pangani. 
He combined all our assets and all our far-flung detachments in one 
closely-wrought strategical plan. He did more, for he inspired 
his whole command with his own magnetic spirit, and lifted it 
over hard places which might well have proved unconquerable 
without such leadership. He was the soul and brain of the army 
he led, and though in men like Van Deventer and Hoskins, Northey 
and Hannyngton, he had most able lieutenants, it was his shaping 
and controlling mind which made victory certain. 

Yet he could not have succeeded but for the quality of his 
army. Its trials were of a kind to sap the courage of most men. 

* Each side testified to the good conduct of the other. See Sir J. L. Van 
Deventer's last dispatch of April 26, 1919, and Lettow-Vorbeck's My Reminis- 
cences of East Africa (Eng. trans., 1920). 



1917] SUMMARY OF CAMPAIGN 127 

Poor food, excessive fatigue, and constant sickness are the hardest 
foes for humanity to strive with, and all who are familiar with 
tropical Africa know the deadly lassitude which infects the blood 
of Europeans and takes the edge from their spirit. In two months 
during the autumn of 191 6 the wastage of animals was : horses, 
10,000; mules, 10,000; oxen, 11,000; donkeys, 2,500. In one 
week of the same period there were 9,000 patients in hospital, 4,000 
of them white men, and over 200 officers. Let the reader reflect 
what such a handicap meant for military operations, and then 
assess the credit for those swift marches which flung the enemy from 
position after position, and tore river lines from his grasp before he 
was aware of the menace. It was a war on both sides of picked 
men, black and white. The Angoni of the King's African Rifles, the 
Manyema of the Belgians, the Wanyamwezi of the Germans, were 
the military elite of Central Africa. We had behind us famous 
Indian battalions ; corps of settlers accustomed to fend for them- 
selves in the wilds ; scouts and hunters who had long made a dwell- 
ing in the bush ; the same type of South African infantryman 
who in France had fought at Delville Wood and Arras ; and those 
mounted Boers whose quality we knew well, and who among natives 
who had never seen a horse won a legendary fame as the " Kabure" 
— a new animal generated by the war. Their heroism and endur- 
ance were not fruitlessly expended, for, far as East Africa seemed 
removed from the strategical centre of gravity, the difficulty 
of its conquest showed, in General Smuts's words, what an "im- 
mense tropical territory, with almost unlimited economic and 
military possibilities, and provided with excellent submarine bases," 
might become as an aid to that world empire of which Germany 
dreamed. And it strengthened the Allies in the resolution that 
"a land where so many of our heroes lost their lives or their 
health — where, under the most terrible and exacting conditions, 
human loyalty and human sacrifice were poured out so lavishly 
in a great cause — should never be allowed to become a menace 
to the future peaceful development of the world." 



CHAPTER XC 

THE EXTREMITY OF RUSSIA 

November 8, igij- March 5, 1918 

The Bolshevik Political Creed — Armistice with Germany — The Brest Litovsk 
Conference — The Position of the Baltic States — Poland — The Ukraine — 
Finland — Rumania — The Farce of the Constituent Assembly — Trotski's 
Hesitations — The Brest Litovsk Treaty — The Gains of the Central Powers 
— The Bolshevik Performance — The Czecho-Slovaks. 

On the 8th of November the Bolsheviks had seized the reins of 
government, and on that date Lenin proposed a three months' 
armistice to all the belligerent Powers. The next day was devoted 
to a tour round the various administrative departments, which for 
the most part had been deserted by their officials, and the installa- 
tion of a new and wholly untrained bureaucracy. On the lOth a 
batch of decrees transferred the possession of all factories to the 
operatives, empowered municipalities to sequestrate house prop- 
erty, and abolished private ownership in land. An attempt of the 
Railwaymen's Federation to bring about a coalition government 
failed signally, for the little group of the Smolny Institute refused 
to share their power with any colleagues. Presently all news- 
papers not of the Bolshevik persuasion were suppressed, and 
private stocks of paper and printing-presses confiscated. On the 
22nd Colonel Muraviev, an ex-regular officer with a black record, 
who now commanded the Petrograd district, issued an order an- 
nouncing that the war was over, and providing for the disbanding of 
troops. On the 28th the German Command in the East agreed to 
negotiate for an armistice. The Bolsheviks were now firmly in the 
saddle, and had started on their wild ride. 

On what forces could they count for support? The first and 
most important was the Soviets of the towns. To the average 
Russian local government was the only form he understood, and 

128 



1917] THE BOLSHEVIK POWER 129 

the soviet system, patchy as it was everywhere and infamous in 
many places, met undoubtedly with a real popular acceptance. 
The system had no necessary connection with Bolshevism ; it was 
simply a method of government by franchise based upon the voter's 
occupation in life, a method which did not follow the ordinary 
parliamentary system of the Western democracies.* But since it 
was not based on rule by the will of the majority, it could be manip- 
ulated by an energetic fraction, and was now in fact controlled by 
the Bolsheviks, as every institution in such a crisis will be con- 
trolled by its most extreme elements. The system was not uni- 
versal. In Siberia it was weak ; in Finland, the Ukraine, and the 
Caucasus it had to struggle with nationalist movements ; and in 
the Cossack country it had scarcely begun. The Bolshevik writ, 
at this stage, did not run generally save in northern and central 
European Russia. The second support was the universal desire of 
the people for peace, a desire on which Lenin at once took action. 
The third was the craving for that land reform which Kerenski had 
promised but never enforced. The Bolshevik objection to private 
ownership was not yet realized by the peasants, though their dele- 
gates to the peasant Soviets stood out strenuously against the new 
usurpation till it was clear that their opposition was hopeless. Last 
may be reckoned the widespread unsettlement of the Revolution, 
the passion for change, for anything provided it was novel, the 
dream of a new world which could only come into being after the 
complete destruction of the old. Let it be added that the men of 
Smolny were not yet compromised by failure, and that they had for 
the moment no serious opponents. The old Provisional Govern- 
ment and Kerenski had faded away in effectiveness. No party, 
from the Social Revolutionaries to the Cadets, had real leaders, or 
knew what it wanted. The Army chiefs were now without armies. 
The Cossacks of the Don and the Urals were not the stuff to restore 
an old regime, nor was their hetman, Kaledin, a Duke of Albemarle. 

* The soviet principle has many points of resemblance to that "constitution- 
alism" which in the nineteenth century used to be opposed to plebiscitary de- 
mocracy, and of which the House of Lords and the separate representation of 
universities in the House of Commons may be considered relics. Disraeli's 
Reform Bill of 1859 was of that school, and the pure milk of the soviet word 
may be found in the discussion on the Franchise Bills of 1866-7. For examiple, 
Sir Hugh Cairns : "Parliament must be a mirror — a representation of every 
class, not according to heads, not according to numbers, but according to every- 
thing which gives weight and importance in the world without, so that the 
various classes of this country may be heard, and their views expressed fairly 
in the House of Commons, without the probability of any one class outnumber- 
ing and reducing to silence all the other classes in the kingdom." — Life of 
Lord Salisbury, I., 196. 



130 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Nov. 

The new government was a gamble of supreme audacity. The 
Bolsheviks had no disciplined military force behind them, save 
what they could themselves create, and they had the Germans at 
their door. The railways were in chaos, the rich coal and iron basin 
of the Donetz was in unfriendly hands, and it was hard to see how 
the people could be fed or kept in employment. The treasury was 
empty, and they had vast commitments to meet. Under such 
conditions they could not hope to endure even for a few months 
except by a crescendo of violent deeds. Since there was no income 
they must live upon capital — the gold reserve and private bank 
balances — and they must keep their followers in good heart by 
something not distinguishable from loot. Like a drunken man, 
they could only keep erect while they moved fast, for if they went 
slowly they would fall. To enforce their mandates, they enlisted 
condottieri from the gutters, the Red Guards, in whose ranks many 
miscreants found good pay and a life of license, and who formed a 
bodyguard for the Government that ensured them a living. It was 
mad and chaotic, but it was not purposeless. Lenin and Trotski 
sought to bring about a world-wide revolution ; to annihilate every- 
where the bourgeoisie and the intellectuals, and to establish a 
proletariat tyranny. Chaos was their object, the chaos and de- 
struction of the normal state. They did not drift, but, to begin 
with at any rate, strode with firm steps into what the majority of 
mankind would call the mire. They knew their own mind with 
complete precision. 

We have already examined the theoretic equipment of that mind ; 
we have now to consider briefly the translation of general dogmas 
into a working code of policy. The Russian Revolution, which 
began with a coup d'etat, had become a revolution in very truth, 
involving the utter collapse of the old system of government, 
and the release of elemental forces which were for the time 
being only destructive. It had not been organized under the 
inspiration of a formative creed, and there was no scheme in the 
heads of its makers to replace what they had destroyed. This was 
made plain by the behaviour first of the Provisional Government 
and then of Kerenski. They acted as if liberty were in itself a 
cure for all ills ; they aimed at releasing rather than at governing. 
With such a negative attitude no constructive policy was likely 
to be either framed or enforced. Those who saw the need of gov- 
ernment could only hark back to fragments of the old order, and 
these were inacceptable to a people drunk with novelties. Nor 
must it be forgotten that a class war of a sort had been proclaimed 



1917] LENIN'S POLITICAL CREED 131 

from the very beginning ; even the moderate Social Revolutionaries 
were committed to it ; whatever their leaders might say, the whole 
trend of their thought was towards the domination by peasants and 
workmen of the classes who had hitherto ruled the land. The 
under dog was to come to his own, and since the vast majority of 
the Russian people were under dogs, the sudden mass-consciousness 
swept even sober men off their feet. Though here and there a 
thinker entered a caveat against jerry-built millenniums, he found 
no hearers. Lenin did not invent the class war ; he did not even 
inaugurate it as a policy in Russia ; he found it the incoherent 
creed of the nation, including the bulk of his nominal opponents. 

We can picture the Bolshevik leaders slipping back to Russia in 
the spring of 191 7 from foreign soil, where for years they had lived 
on a diet of futile political discussion varied by hopeless dreams. 
Suddenly their dreams had come true. They found the situation 
they had not dared to think of, and a nation hanging on their words. 
They were in no sense democrats ; the great doctrines of that polity 
— liberty, brotherhood, and an equal law — signified nothing to 
them. They were class maniacs, and, in their own eyes, class 
martyrs, and the time for their revenge had come. Having lived 
so long among abstractions, reality was distorted for them ; and, 
having thought only in negations, they had neither the wish nor 
the power to construct. Their long sojourn in the underworld had 
deprived them of the chance of serious political education, as much 
as the most illiterate mujik. They owed nothing to the West, and 
why should they ? They did not admire its traditions or accept 
its precepts. They found Russia, like a man of a gross habit of 
body, suffering from a sharp fever. Themselves consumed with a 
worse fever, they sought not to lower the patient's temperature, 
but to infect him with a wilder virus, and, through him, the whole 
of mankind. Therefore, once they were given the chance, they 
were certain to act, and to act swiftly. They would make the class 
war not an aspiration but a fact. They would liberate not only 
from the last shackles of Tsardom, but from that tumid constitu- 
tionalism which the pedants of the West misnamed democracy. 

Their intellectual baggage was of the flimsiest, but it is possible 
to characterise some of the pieces. In the choice of certain of the 
less important they did not show their usual logic and consistency. 
They preached, for example, universal self-determination, but they 
did not believe in it ; for self-determination carried to an extreme 
means anarchy and particularism run mad ; and in the interests 
of their class war they were not prepared to allow irrelevant cross- 



132 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Nov. 

divisions. As soon as the Ukraine and Finland proposed to set 
up independent governments, the Bolsheviks showed themselves 
the most rigid of centralists. But on the main matter they were 
not in doubt. Their cardinal tenet was the class war, their main 
watchword Karl Marx's historic appeal: "Workers of the world, 
unite ; you have a world to win, and nothing to lose but your 
chains." It was this intense concentration that gave their creed 
not an intellectual but an emotional coherence. As pacificists, 
they brought not peace but a sword ; as liberators, they would 
enslave all but a single class ; as levellers, they sought to estab- 
lish a reversed tyranny, a shabby oligarchy from the pavement. 
This obsession mastered alike the cold fanaticism of Lenin, the 
mild utopianism of Tchicherin, and the more supple talents of 
Jewish adventurers like Trotski and Radek. They wished to 
break down as much as possible of the old world in the time 
permitted to them, and to kindle a fire from the debris which would 
send sparks to the four corners of the globe. They were in the 
true sense adventurers, making hay with a desperate zeal while 
their sun shone, and in fever-stricken Russia they found a popular 
mood which gave them their opportunity. 

The creed was almost as ancient as Human society, and there 
was nothing to distinguish the movement from a thousand others 
scattered like wrack about the sea of history, save the remarkable 
personality of its leader and the unique chance afforded him by 
a disorganized society and an ignorant, weary, and nerveless 
people. To some minds the ideal world of Communism may seem 
a thing of beauty, to others a horror of darkness ; to one man the 
Marxian economics on which it is based may have the truth of 
mathematical science, to another they may appear a self-contra- 
dictory folly ; one moralist may see in the creed an ennobling, an- 
other a degradation, of human nature. To the historian the cardi- 
nal fact is that such attempts have often been made and have never 
succeeded, since there seems to be that in the soul of man which is 
impatient of a society so monotonous and of an ordering of life 
so arbitrary and sterile. If he views in this light the Communist 
ideal he must suspect still more deeply the Communist methods. 
The Bolshevik sought to make the world a clean slate on which 
he could write what he pleased, forgetting that nature does not 
tolerate such convulsions. To that organic thing called human 
society he applied his crude violence, and the result was a new 
way not of life but of death. 

In the ranks of Bolshevism were many agents of Germany, 



I9I7] WEAKNESS OF OPPOSITION 133 

some of whom had been in the Russian Secret Police in the old days, 
scoundrels who would sell their souls willingly for hire. But, 
though the leaders were unscrupulous enough in their methods, 
and would pocket German gold if it helped their purpose, they had 
their own game to play, and had small affection for Deiitschtiim 
in itself. Yet Prussianism and Bolshevism were nearly related. 
Both unduly simplified the world, both were without sense of 
history, both would substitute for the rich and organic variousness 
of life a harsh mechanism. The inspiration of both was Central 
European. Each was a devotee of Machtpolitik ; each sought, 
in defiance of right and justice, to impose its theories on the world 
by force. "It is to be observed," said Trotski later at Brest 
Litovsk, "that the Russian Government is based upon power. 
Throughout the whole of history no other government has been 
known. So long as society consists of contending classes, the power 
of government will be based on strength, and these governments 
will maintain their dominion by force." It is Prussianism's 
authentic voice. 

It should be realized that Lenin and his colleagues were not 
anarchists in the common sense of the word, though they succeeded 
in producing anarchy. They aimed at establishing a strong, 
rigid, and narrow government, of whose rules they would tolerate 
no breach. They did not form the extremest left of the Revolu- 
tion, for there was an extremer section than they, who aimed at a 
world of complete individual license. Against these Lenin was for 
ever inveighing, as foes of society. They were his enemies on the 
one side ; on the other were ranged the more moderate socialists 
under leaders like Tchernov, who appealed to the peasantry as 
the Bolsheviks appealed to the workmen of the towns ; the Centre 
parties, supported by the bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia, but 
without leaders, for Miliukov was more a schoolmaster than a 
statesman ; the Cossacks, self-centred, scattered and unreliable ; 
the nationalists of Finland, the Ukraine, and the Caucasus ; the 
Orthodox Church and its hierarchy ; the loyal elements of the 
Army, every day declining in number ; and somewhere in the dark- 
ness those who still dreamed of a monarchical restoration. The 
true Bolsheviks were only a small fraction of the Russian people — 
a hundred thousand or so among 170 millions ; but they were united 
and purposeful, while their foes were impotent and divided, and 
they preached a creed of which the main tenets appealed to the 
fatigue and ignorance of the ordinary man, though he would have 
rejected the whole body of doctrine had he understood it. The 



134 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Dec. 

Army chiefs were off the immediate stage — Kornilov under arrest, 
Kaledin among his Cossacks, Alexeiev and Denikin and Brussilov 
in retirement. Kerenski had disappeared, and Savinkov, a far 
more dangerous antagonist, had returned to that underworld of 
whose intricacies he was a master. 

The Bolsheviks' first task was to stop the war. They had 
already destroyed the Russian Army ; they must now destroy all 
other armies by appealing to the blind masses behind them. They 
were pacificists of the most militant brand, for they sought peace 
not by submitting to the will of a conqueror, but by using negotia- 
tions as a means of propaganda among the conqueror's own troops 
and throughout the world. If only they could awake their feverish 
class mania in Germany, they would win from their apparent 
abasement a lasting triumph. Hence the history of the Bolshevik 
regime is to be found in its foreign policy. Till the end of the year 
there were few outstanding events in the chaos of their domestic 
government. On 4th December Dukhonin, the former commander- 
in-chief, was barbarously murdered at army headquarters. From 
the 9th onward, when Kaledin took the field in the Don region, 
where he was presently joined by Kornilov, there was constant 
fighting around Kharkov and Rostov between his Cossacks and the 
Red Guards, the latter having the support of sailors from the Black 
Sea Fleet. The nth was the day fixed originally for the meeting 
of the Constituent Assembly, but nothing happened. The meeting 
was postponed, for the way in which the elections had gone did not 
satisfy the junta at Smolny. But these events were of small im- 
portance compared to what was happening inside the German 
lines. 

On 28th November, as we have seen, Germany accepted the 
Bolshevik scheme for an armistice, and Count Hertling in the 
Reichstag announced that his Government agreed to the Russian 
proposals as a basis of discussion. On 2nd December hostilities 
ceased on the Eastern front, and fraternization began. The Allies 
formally protested, and Trotski seized the occasion to deliver an in- 
flammatory speech denouncing foreign interference. On the 3rd a 
Russian deputation arrived at the headquarters of Prince Leopold 
of Bavaria at Brest Litovsk. On the 5th a preliminary conference 
opened there, with General Hoffmann, Prince Leopold's Chief of 
Staff, presiding, in the presence of representatives from Ger- 
many, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria. The Russian 
delegates were a peasant, a private soldier, a sailor, and one or two 



191 7] TROTSKI'S NOTE TO THE ALLIES 135 

Bolshevik politicians, accompanied by several minor staff officers 
to act as expert advisers. One of the latter, General Skalon, 
committed suicide in despair during the conference. How pre- 
posterous was the whole delegation may be judged from the fact 
that one Russian member was an official of the old Tsarist Secret 
Police and a German agent. They asked for the retirement of the 
German detachments from the islands in the Gulf of Riga, and 
the promise that, while negotiations continued, no German forces 
would be sent from the East to other battle-grounds.* They 
pressed, too, for an armistice on all fronts alike. The German 
delegates refused these demands, and for some days there was an 
indeterminate discussion. Finally, on 15th December, an armistice 
agreement was signed, providing for a truce on the Eastern front 
for twenty -eight days from noon on 1 7th December. The Germans 
agreed in the meantime to transfer no troops westward, but did not 
scruple to break their word.f 

Meantime the Rumanian army, now in an impossible position, 
had been forced by the defection of its Russian contingent to join 
in the truce as from 6th December. That day Trotski, as the 
Bolshevik Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, issued a Note to the 
Allies declaring that the coming armistice offered them a locus 
pcenitenticB as to war aims. "The period is, even for the present 
disturbed state of international communications, amply sufficient 
to afford the Allied Governments the opportunity to define their 
attitude towards the peace negotiations — that is, their willingness 
or their refusal to take part in the negotiations for an armistice 
and peace. In the case of a refusal they must declare clearly 
and deliberately before all mankind the aims for which the peoples 
of Europe may have to shed their blood during a fourth year of 
war." It was a suggestion which no Allied Government could 
accept. To negotiate with an undefeated and impenitent Germany 
would have been to disown the cause for which they had entered 
the war. But for Germany herself the occasion came as a god- 
send, for she began the game with every card in her hand. To 
the doctrinaires of Bolshevism, who would waste hours hunting 
for metaphysical formulas, she could oppose trained diplomats with 
a policy and a purpose. At the worst she could secure stagnation 

* Lenin opposed this condition on the ground that he knew a more effective 
way of preventing the militarist Powers using the armistice to attain their own 
ends. This was apparently the non- recognition of foreign loans, and the en- 
gineering of a universal revolution, which he believed to be possible at once. 

t Six divisions were moved to France and Flanders between i6th and 31st 
December. 



136 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Dec. 

on her Eastern front, and thereby change the whole orientation 
of the war. At the best she might throw an apple of discord into 
all the councils of her enemies. Her danger was that she might 
overrate the simplicity of the game, and play too blindly for present 
advantage. As for the dreamers of Smolny, they were swollen 
with vainglory. By the sheer might of intellect they would force 
a settlement upon the world, a settlement which would not only 
put an end to an irrelevant war, but would leave them with a 
mighty vantage ground for reshaping human society according to 
their pet pattern. They were wildly in error ; yet it is probable 
that history will put the worst blunder to the credit not of the crude 
theorists of Petrograd, but of the cool and calculating politicians 
of Berlin. 

The Brest Litovsk meeting to discuss terms of peace was formally 
opened on Saturday, 22nd December. Among the obscure Russian 
delegates only the names of Joffe and Kamenev were known to 
the world. Germany sent Kuhlmann, her Foreign Secretary, one 
of the most astute of the lesser statesmen of Europe ; and from 
Austria-Hungary came Count Czernin, who was of the Kuhlmann 
school, and combined a minimum of practical liberalism with a 
maximum of democratic profession. The attitude of both may be 
judged from Kuhlmann's preliminary declaration: "Our negotia- 
tions will be guided by a spirit of placable humanity and mutual 
esteem. They must take into account what is an accomplished 
historical fact, in order not to lose our footing on the firm ground of 
reality, but on the other hand they must be inspired by the new 
great dominant motive that has brought us together. I regard it as 
an auspicious circumstance that our negotiations begin in sight of 
that Christmas festival which for many centuries past has promised 
peace upon earth and goodwill to men." That is to say, Germany, 
as conqueror, was not prepared to give up any material conquest, 
but she was ready to satisfy the Bolsheviks by every pious decla- 
ration which sounded bravely and signified nothing. For behind 
Czernin and Kuhlmann stood the massive figure of LudendorfT, 
who sought only to use this fortunate rabbledom in Russia for his 
great projects on the Western front. 

If such an attitude held out little hope of satisfactory results, 
the Bolsheviks were no less uncompromising. Their heads were 
turned by what they considered their success in the first round. 
"We did not overthrow the Tsar," said Trotski in Petrograd on 
the opening day of the Conference, "in order to fall on our knees 
before the Kaiser and beg for peace. . . . We summon all to a 



1917] THE CONFERENCE OF BREST LITOVSK 137 

holy war against imperialism in every country. If owing to our 
economic ruin we are unable to fight, and are obliged to renounce 
the struggle for our ideals, we will tell our foreign comrades that 
that struggle is not ended but only postponed." In his eyes Brest 
Litovsk was an occasion less for diplomacy than for propaganda. 
And meantime, to the embarrassment of Germany, his agents were 
scattering their appeals everywhere among the inactive German 
troops on the now stagnant front. The Bolsheviks at this period 
were true to their anti-militarist ideals. They fought not for their 
own power only, but for the triumph of their creed in any land to 
which they could gain access. Trotski had small reason to love 
Britain, having spent some time in a Canadian internment camp, 
but at the moment he was little better disposed towards Germany. 

The scene in the Council Chamber at Brest Litovsk was worthy 
of the art of some great historical painter. On one side sat the 
bland and alert representatives of the Central Powers, black- 
coated or much beribboned and bestarred, exquisitely polite, but 
blundering often in giving a needless "von" to some Russian 
Jew or the title of "Excellency" to some shaggy comrade from 
Smolny. Among them could be noted the narrow face and alert 
eyes of Kuhlmann, whose courtesy in debate never failed ; the 
handsome presence of Czernin, who was put up to fly the wilder 
sort of kite, because of his artless bonhomie; and the chubby 
Pickwickian countenance of General Hoffmann, who now and then 
grew scarlet and combative when he felt that some military pro- 
nouncement was called for. Behind the Teutonic delegates was 
an immense band of staff officers and civil servants and spectacled 
professorial experts. Each delegation used its own tongue, and 
the discussions were apt to be lengthy. Opposite the ranks of 
Teutondom sat the Russians, mostly dirty and ill-clad, who smoked 
their large pipes placidly through the debates. Much of the dis- 
cussion seemed not to interest them, and they intervened in mono- 
syllables, save when an incursion into the ethos of politics let loose 
a flood of confused metaphysics. The Conference had the air 
partly of an assembly of well-mannered employers trying to deal 
with a specially obtuse delegation of workmen, partly of urbane 
hosts presiding at a village school treat. 

The Russian proposals were seven in number. There was to 
be no forcible appropriation of territory taken in the course of the 
campaigns, and the occupying armies were to be at once with- 
drawn. Complete political independence was to be restored to all 
peoples who had lost it during the war. Right of self-determination 



138 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Jan. 

was to be granted to all nations, and in the case of territories 
inhabited by several nationalities special provision was to be made 
to safeguard the rights of minorities. No indemnities were to be 
paid, war requisitions were to be returned, and sufferers by the war 
compensated from a special fund levied on all belligerents according 
to their resources. Finally, colonies were to be treated on the 
same basis as parent countries, and any economic boycott after 
the war was forbidden. 

Of these proposals, all except the first three were acceptable 
enough to the Central Powers; but no one, except the second, 
was acceptable to the Allies, since the terms ignore Germany's re- 
sponsibility for the origin of the war and the peculiar nature of her 
political creed and her national ambitions. As for the first three, 
Germany hoped to whittle them down in actual drafting, and in 
the meantime to use them to make trouble with the Allies. On 
Christmas Day Count Czernin arose to announce the readiness of 
the Central Powers to assent to a peace without annexations or 
indemnities, provided that the Allies forthwith pledged themselves 
to these principles and agreed to join in the negotiations. It was 
accordingly decided that the Conference should rise until January 
4, 1918, in order to give the Allies an opportunity of considering 
the proposal. On the 28th a provisional agreement was reached 
regarding the resumption of normal relations between Russia and 
Central Europe. Treaty arrangements interrupted by the war 
were to be resumed, and the diplomatic and consular servace was 
to be restored. As a result Petrograd was at once flooded with 
German delegations. Meantime the Central Powers had prepared 
two articles as a draft for an eventual peace treaty. The first 
laid down that Russia and Germany were to declare the state of 
war at an end, and that as soon as peace was concluded and the 
Russian armies demobilized, Germany was to evacuate occupied 
Russian territory. But the second introduced a qualification. 
A special commission was to deal with the border provinces — 
Poland, Lithuania, Courland, and part of Esthonia and Livonia. 
There, said Berlin, the wish of the people had been already mani- 
fested in favour of separation from Russia and the acceptance of 
German protection. The Russian Government must take cogni- 
zance of such manifestations, which Germany was willing to see 
ratified by a plebiscite conducted without military pressure. 

These proposals — which represented the views of Ludendorflf 
as opposed to Czernin — were not satisfactory to the Bolshevik 
representatives, and still less to Bolshevik Headquarters. Trotski 



I9i8] THE BALTIC STATES 139 

immediately took the field. The suggestion as to the border 
provinces seemed to him a defiance and an impertinence ; his 
vanity was wounded ; and he had an ugly feeling that he was 
being played with by the adroit manipulators of Berlin and Vienna. 
On January 2, 191 8, before the Central Committee of the Soviets, 
he denounced "Germany's hypocritical peace proposals," and 
declared that if the border nationalities were not given the right 
of self-determination, the militant revolution would stand forth 
in their defence. For the moment that centralism, which was part 
of the Bolshevik creed, was uppermost, and he was not minded to 
surrender any part of the Russian state either to Germany or to 
complete independence. To understand the situation, we must 
consider briefly the position of those parts of the old Russia other 
than the North and Centre at the beginning of 191 8. 

A revolution is always fissiparous. A strong central govern- 
ment may restore unity, but the first tendency is towards a break- 
up into provinces. This is especially true in the case of an inor- 
ganic realm, and Russia, as we have seen, had no real integration. 
" In March there had been one Russia from Poland to the Pacific ; 
now, whether there were six or sixty, no man could tell. Republics 
sprang up in the night. Cities and districts proclaimed their inde- 
pendence. The realm of the Romanovs, of Catharine, of Peter the 
Great, was no more. Russia had reeled back into the dark ages."* 

Let us consider first the position of the Baltic states — Esthonia, 
Livonia, Lithuania, and Courland. In Esthonia a National Diet 
had been established by the Russian Provisional Government on 
the outbreak of the Revolution. It met at Reval in July, and 
formed an administration ; and in November, after the Bolshevik 
coup d'etat, followed the example of the Ukraine, and declared an 
independent republic. Thereupon the Bolsheviks intervened and 
dissolved the Diet ; but the provisional administration continued, 
and in January 191 8 repeated its claim to independence. The 
administration represented at least 65 per cent, of the people, 30 
per cent, of the remainder being Bolsheviks, and 5 the pro-German 
aristocracy. This last section was clamouring for the occupation 
of Esthonia by German troops, since their great landed estates 
were in danger from any popular government. In Livonia, Cour- 
land, and Latvia there had long been a movement for the union 
of the Lettish people as an autonomous state within the Russian 
Empire. After the Revolution territorial councils were established 
* The Round Table, March 1918. 



140 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Jan. 

in the different districts, and a conference was held at Riga in 
August 191 7, which demanded " a united, undivided, politically 
autonomous Lettland within the Russian Republic." Then came 
Hutier's advance, and the occupation by Germany of large portions 
of Lettland, and after the Revolution Bolshevism spread rapidly 
in the province. It was from Lettish troops that the bodyguard 
of the Smolny leaders was largely drawn, and the best elements 
in the Bolshevik army. The country as a whole was strongly 
anti-German, only the nobility and the great landowners turning 
their eyes to Berlin. In Lithuania there was the same movement 
towards independence. All the Baltic provinces had therefore 
expressed by an immense majority their views as to their future, 
and annexation to Germany or protection under German suzerainty 
was sought only by a negligible fraction of territorial magnates. 
There was no substance in Germany's claim that the will of these 
peoples was on her side. It was not these peoples that had ap- 
pealed to Germany, but Germany unasked who had constituted 
herself their patron, as when Bethmann-HoUweg had proclaimed 
in the Reichstag that the states of the Baltic littoral, which had 
been "liberated" by German arms, would never again be enslaved 
by Russia. Though there were powerful Bolshevik elements 
among the Letts, nationalism was the dominant political creed 
— nationalism strongly flavoured with distrust of the new regime 
in Russia and fear of Teutonic encroachments. 

Turn now to Poland and the Ukraine. The Regency Govern- 
ment of Poland, in spite of its protests, was not represented at 
Brest Litovsk. That unfortunate land had become a neglible 
quantity, and its fate was settled between Germany and Austria 
without its knowledge or consent. There was no unity in Polish 
opinion. The country was not arrayed on the side of the Russian 
Revolution, for the upper classes feared Bolshevism as much as 
they hated Prussianism. They were dependent for their existence 
as a class on the German sword, and it was not surprising that at 
the stage in which the conflict now stood Poland should be treated 
with scant respect. Germany was ready to use Polish territory to 
secure the support of any ally who was worth buying. Poland's 
independence had been an article of faith of the Provisional 
Government ; her self-determination was the policy of the Bol- 
sheviks ; but her own views were variable and divided ; neither 
Russian nor Central European ; nationalist, but without any clear 
notion of what should constitute her nationality ; opportunist, and 
therefore ineffectual. 



I9i8] THE UKRAINE 141 

It was different with the Ukraine. The people of the " Borders" 
(for this is the meaning of the name), the Little Russians, who 
numbered twenty-five milHons on Russian soil and some four 
milHons in Galicia, had, by reason of their history, their language, 
and their literature, acquired a distinction from their neighbours 
which might almost be dignified by the name of nationality. Their 
aspirations had been suppressed by the old regime in Russia ; but 
during the first days of the Revolution the nationalists came into 
the foreground. An Ukrainian congress was opened at Kiev in 
April 1917, when the policy was adopted of national territorial 
autonomy within the future Russian Republic. The boundaries 
of the new state were to be the Pripet on the north, the Black Sea 
and the Sea of Azov on the south, the Kuban River on the east, 
and the provinces of Lublin and Grodno on the west. A Rada, 
or Central Council, was formed, and, after some bickering with 
the Government of Prince Lvov, it issued in June a manifesto of 
autonomy, and proceeded to act on it. The Ukrainians were not 
separatists — they claimed, indeed, to be the chief exponents of 
the federal idea — but they were in a hurry to get their own house 
in order, in view of the general confusion of the Russian Empire. 

The advent of the Bolsheviks to power in November altered 
the position. The Ukraine was in the main an agricultural terri- 
tory — the richest in Russia — with a peasant population, who, in 
the cases where they did not own their farms, were chiefly anxious 
to acquire the land from the great proprietors. Only in the towns 
was there much intelligent nationalism. But the Bolsheviks were 
opposed to both desires. As socialists they objected to the indi- 
vidualist peasant proprietors, and as centralists or internationalists 
they had little liking for provincial chauvinism. On 20th November 
the Rada issued a proclamation, transferring the land to communal 
peasant committees, establishing an eight-hours day, giving labour 
the control over industry, and defining the limits of the Ukraine 
republic. It was a bold attempt to forestall Bolshevism, and for 
the moment it succeeded. The new republic formed an alliance 
with Kaledin and the Cossacks of the Donetz basin, and with 
Rumania and Bessarabia. It occupied Odessa, and in the north 
and north-east around Kharkov and Rostov fought steadily with 
the Bolshevik troops. About the middle of December Trotski 
sent it an ultimatum, threatening war unless the Rada ceased to 
bar the passage of Bolshevik troops. The Rada replied that they 
would not tolerate the interference of Bolshevik elements in their 
national government. Trotski answered with the charge that 



142 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Jan. 

the Ukraine was supporting the bourgeoisie, the Cadets, and Kaledin 
against the sovereignty of the Soviets, and that therefore she was 
a foe of the RepubHc. Such was the situation when the Brest 
Litovsk Conference sat. The Ukraine had virtually proclaimed 
her independence, and was clamouring to be represented at the 
Conference as a sovereign state. 

The position in Finland was peculiar. She had received her 
autonomy from the Russian Provisional Government, but this 
did not satisfy her, and she made no secret that independence was 
her ultimate aim. Kerenski dissolved the Finnish Diet just before 
he fell, and that event encouraged the people to appoint an adminis- 
tration on their own account, which in December decreed separation 
from Russia. The Bolsheviks tolerated the act, and the Finnish 
Government thereupon instituted a tour among the courts of 
Europe to ask for the recognition of their independence. This 
was granted by Scandinavia, by France, and by Germany, but by 
Britain only provisionally, subject to the assent of the ultimate 
Peace Congress. In the meantime, however, it was clear that the 
Finnish constitutionalists were to suffer from the neighbourhood of 
Russia. lam proximus ardet Ucalegon. The men responsible for 
Finnish independence were for the most part of the Right or Right 
Centre, and they were opposed by extremists who cared nothing for 
constitutional changes and everything for social revolution. Ac- 
cordingly, the strife began of Red Guards and White Guards, and 
the situation in the Ukraine was repeated. It appeared, therefore, 
most probable that these two provinces of the old Russia would 
never take their orders from Smolny, and that, if they negotiated 
with the enemy, they would do it in their own way and for their 
own purpose. 

Rumania, as we have seen, was in desperate straits. Cut off 
from her Western Allies, with an implacable foe in front of her, 
and chaos and famine at her back, it was becoming clear that her 
heroic stand could be no longer maintained. She was regarded 
with hatred by the Bolsheviks, partly because of her steady reso- 
lution to fight, partly because of her firm handling of the revolu- 
tionary element in Tcherbachev's troops, and partly because of her 
alliance with Bessarabia. This latter province, for the most part 
inhabited by men of Rumanian blood, lay between the Dniester 
and the Black Sea, the Pruth and the Danube. It was Rumania's 
only possible support, and in December the proclamation of an 
independent republic enabled Bessarabia to open up friendly rela- 
tions with her blood brothers. The Bolsheviks, after their fashion, 



I9i8] THE CAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA 143 

denounced the new state as a bourgeois government of reactionary- 
landlords, and made it clear that at the first opportunity they 
would take order with both Rumania and her ally. 

The rest of Russia did not for the moment come into the ques- 
tions debated at Brest Litovsk. In the Caucasus there was wild 
confusion — Armenians, Georgians, and Tartars now moving to- 
wards union under pressure from the Turks, now concentrating on 
their national differences and forming embryo states. In Central 
Asia Moslems, Bolsheviks, and Moderates, under different names, 
were at variance in Siberia, in Russian Turkestan, and in the khan- 
ates of Bokhara and Khiva. In those parts Pan-Turanianism and 
Pan-Islamism added to the ferment, and at the beginning of 
19 1 8 he would have been a bold man who dared to forecast 
the future of any area between the Black Sea and the Pacific. 
The one certain fact was that ancient unrests had come to life 
again, that old political barriers had broken down, and that the 
poison of Europe was being blown with every wind across the 
Steppes. The breakdown of Russia had done for the Central 
Powers what they had failed to do for themselves ; it had pre- 
pared for Turkey and for Germany an avenue into the forbidden 
land. To widen that avenue and to make sure of it for ever was, 
perhaps, more in the mind of Kuhlmann at Brest Litovsk than 
any tinkering with the border states. For with good luck the 
madness of Bolshevism might give Germany not the modest outlet 
on the Persian Gulf which she had long desired, but an imperial 
highway to the Pacific. 

The position was, therefore, that in the Baltic provinces, in 
Finland, in the Ukraine, and, to a large extent, in the Caucasus, 
Siberia, and Central Asia, the most powerful impulse was towards 
nationalism and independence, not towards Bolshevik interna- 
tionalism. Why, then, did Trotski make ready to dispute with 
Germany on this point above all others? The inconsistency of 
his attitude with the general creed of his party led many at the 
time to assume that the whole opposition was fictitious, and that 
the Bolsheviks, seeking peace at any price, and conscious of their 
weakness, desired only to save their credit by a show of independ- 
ence. It is more likely that the opposition was genuine. For 
one thing, the Smolny leaders did not wish to estrange their Lettish 
troops, who, Bolshevik or no, were strongly nationalist. For 
another, the Bolsheviks were centralists, and, while they had little 
love for provincial nationalism, they had less for brazen annexations 
by a foreign Power. Again, Trotski had always one eye fixed 



144 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Jan. 

upon the German masses, whom he hoped to attract to his standard 
by revealing the gross imperiahsm of their masters. Last, and 
most important, the brittle vanity of Smolny had been offended. 
Only Lenin among the Bolsheviks was wholly logical. To Trotski 
and his like it was a bitter thing to acknowledge impotence, and 
they hoped by a stubborn bluff to get a better bargain. 

On January 4, 1918, the period of ten days' grace expired 
during which the Allies were to accept or reject the offer to open 
peace negotiations. The Allies had treated the proposal with 
disdainful silence. On the 6th Trotski himself journeyed to Brest 
Litovsk, for the situation had become delicate. His truculence 
in Petrograd had impaired the good temper of his Teutonic col- 
leagues, and his assiduous propaganda was disquieting their mind. 
It was necessary to temporize, especially as Kuhlmann announced 
with some asperity on the 9th that, since Russia's Allies had made 
no response, the offer to negotiate had lapsed, and implied that 
the universal appeal of Bolshevism was less potent than its devotees 
imagined. Hitherto the Bolsheviks had not talked of a separate 
peace ; now they were compelled to disregard Russia's former 
Allies, and to consider a peace for Russia alone. On the loth 
Trotski announced his readiness to continue negotiations on this 
basis, though he tried to salve his dignity by declaring that, while 
peace was in the forefront of his programme, he would sign only 
a "democratic and just" peace. He was in a chastened mood, 
for on the nth he submitted to the presence at the Conference 
of an independent delegation from the Ukraine. 

On the 1 2th he laid on the table the Bolshevik proposals for 
the evacuation and reconstruction of the Russian territory now 
held by Germany. Two days later Germany categorically refused 
them. Kuhlmann declared that there could be no relinquishment 
of an acre of Russian soil till a general peace had been concluded. 
Germany's terms were stiffening as she felt surer of her ground. 
She already saw a certainty of peace with the Ukraine and with 
Rumania, which would give her a road to the Black Sea and the 
East. Let that be gained, and she could deal with the Bolsheviks 
at her leisure. On the i6th separate negotiations were begun 
between the Austro-German delegates and the Ukraine, in spite 
of Trotski's vehement protests. The Rada was in a cleft stick, 
with the Red Guards beginning to press in from the east towards 
Poltava and Kiev. The peasant individualism and nationalism 
for which it stood were apparently in greater danger from Lenin 



I9i8] FARCE OF CONSTITUTIONAL ASSEMBLY 145 

and Trotski than from the Germans, so it made haste to seek 
support in the only quarter where help could be found. On the 
1 8th the Conference was adjourned, and Trotski returned to Petro- 
grad. He had stuck firmly to his demands in the case of the border 
provinces, and matters had reached an impasse. 

On the 1 8th the long-awaited Constituent Assembly was opened 
in Petrograd. It had but a brief sitting. At four o'clock on the 
morning of the 19th a body of Bolshevik sailors dissolved it, as 
Cromwell had dissolved the Long Parliament. The event shocked 
the Western world, which had not yet discovered the true nature 
of Bolshevism ; but on its declared principles the action was 
reasonable. Lenin and his colleagues stood for a class oligarchy, and 
to submit to the rulings of a constituent assembly was as foreign 
to their ideas as for a pirate to be guided by the resolutions of the 
travellers whom he is plundering. From this date the odd senti- 
mentalism about the Bolsheviks among intellectuals in Britain 
and America — it never existed in France or Italy — began to give 
place to a truer perception of the facts. So unsentimental a creed 
deserved a better fate than to be crooned over by the pacificists 
and humanitarians of the West. Another event helped the illumi- 
nation. Two well-known moderate statesmen, Shingarev and 
Kokoshin, were dragged from their sick-beds by miscreants of the 
Red Guard and most brutally murdered. To those who were 
honoured by Shingarev's friendship, the death of that wise, chari- 
table, and far-sighted patriot was the final condemnation of the 
Bolshevik usurpation. Madmen, drunk with blood and dogma, 
sat in the seat of power, and their vanity unleashed the furies of 
hell. 

Trotski, who had for the moment the lead among his colleagues, 
now struck wildly. He had presented an ultimatum to Rumania 
on 15th January, and by the 20th he heard of the coming agree- 
ment between the Central Powers and the Ukraine, news confirmed 
by Kuhlmann's declaration in the Reichstag on the 25th. On 
the 26th he definitely broke with the Rada, and the following day 
he prepared his followers for disaster by warning them that he 
could hold out no hope of victory nor guarantee a "democratic" 
peace. On 30th January the Brest Litovsk Conference was re- 
sumed, and he delivered one more impassioned appeal against 
both the separation of the Ukraine and the German policy towards 
the Baltic provinces. Meanwhile the Bolshevik troops under 
Muraviev were winning easy victories over the scanty levies of 
the Rada. On the 3rd of February they took Kiev, and put the 



146 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [March 

government of the new republic to flight. The Ukraine turned 
in despair to the Central Powers, and on 9th February, at Brest 
Litovsk, peace was signed between the two parties.* The defence 
of the little republic was now in stronger hands than its own, and 
the army group of Linsingen moved eastward along the Pripet. 
On the loth Trotski flung up his hands. He refused to sign a 
formal treaty, but announced that the state of war with Germany 
and Austria was over, and that the Russian forces on all fronts 
would be demobilized. 

Kuhlmann was not unprepared for the situation. The Bol- 
sheviks had declined to negotiate further, and had fled to their tents ; 
they must be driven out of them, and forced to make a clean-cut 
agreement. The civilians retired, and the soldiers took command. 
On the plea that the Bolsheviks were using it to spread their propa- 
ganda, the armistice was suspended, and the army of Eichhorn 
was ordered to advance. A few divisions were all that was needed 
to secure an almost bloodless victory. The Russian front on the 
west, supposed to be held by Red Guards, had long been no more 
than "a string of booths at which Krilenko's garrulous warriors 
exchanged the foodstuffs and loot plundered from Russian and 
Polish estates and farms for the manufactured products of Ger- 
many." Eichhorn took Reval, Dvinsk, and Pskov, and came 
within 150 miles of Petrograd ; while Linsingen marched to the re- 
lief of Kiev. An ultimatum was presented to Smolny, demanding 
the acceptance of the German peace terms within forty-eight hours. 
There was no longer any talk of negotiations ; the terms, far harder 
than those put forward at Brest Litovsk, were now dictated' by 
the conqueror to the conquered. Trotski and Radek might have 
resisted, but Lenin declared for surrender, and his influence pre- 
vailed. On 24th February the Bolsheviks capitulated, and on 
3rd March was signed the Peace of Brest Litovsk. Kuhlmann 
advanced from success to success. On 5th March a preliminary 
treaty of peace was wrung from Rumania, and two days later a 
treaty with Finland was added to the trophies of his diplomacy. 

It remains to consider what these treaties gave to the Central 
Powers. In the Ukraine — the old weapon against Russia which 
had been used in the past by Lithuanians, Poles, and Swedes — • 
by the erection of an independent state Germany split the Russian 
nation, and won a gateway to the Steppes. Her immediate interest 

* This was largely the doing of Ludendorfif, who, en the 7th, brusquely in- 
formed Kuhlmann that the thing must be settled within three days. 



I9i8] THE TREATY OF BREST LITOVSK 147 

there was economic — to find a new reservoir of supplies — and by 
one article of the Treaty provision was made for "a reciprocal 
exchange of the most important agricultural and industrial prod- 
ucts." She obtained access to the Black Sea, which was now 
wholly dominated by her, and this gave her the chance of guiding 
the tangled affairs of the Caucasus according to her will. Russia 
was stripped of all her acquisitions since 1667. The Bolsheviks 
undertook to evacuate Esthonia and Livonia, the Ukraine and 
Finland. The districts of Ardahan, Kars, and Batum were to be 
handed over to the Turks. All Bolshevik propaganda was to be 
discontinued both in Central Europe and in the new occupied terri- 
tory, and the unfavourable commercial treaty of 1904 was revived. 
Rumania had to give up the whole of the Dobrudja, the Petroseny 
coal basin, and the Carpathian passes ; to demobilize her army, 
to promote Austro-German traffic through Moldavia and Bessa- 
rabia to Odessa, and to bind herself to certain economic concessions 
which were left to be settled later. Presently it appeared that 
these meant the complete subjection of Rumania's commerce and 
industry, including her oil fields, to the control of Austro-German 
financial groups. Finland escaped lightly, it being Germany's 
aim to establish there an anti-revolutionary government under 
her aegis. Finnish independence was recognized, and provision 
was made for settling the question of the Aaland islands, the 
strategical point of the eastern Baltic. As for Poland, so 
little did national claims matter in German eyes, that the dis- 
trict of Cholm was lopped from her territory and transferred to 
the Ukraine. 

And these were not mere paper concessions. There were armies 
waiting to exploit them to the uttermost. Linsingen and Eich- 
horn were pressing eastward and towards the Black Sea littoral. 
German troops were landing in Finland and on the Aaland isles ; 
and in the Caucasus Trebizond had been occupied by the Turks, 
Erzerum was about to be retaken, and the whole Persian frontier 
was ablaze. Kuhlmann had played high, and had won greatly. 
He had established the nucleus of a group of weak statelets on the 
Eastern marches under German suzerainty ; he had routes on both 
sides of the Black Sea to the oil wells of Baku, the cotton lands of 
Ferghana, and the old danger zone of the Indian border. He had 
scattered the Russian army to the winds. Alexeiev and Kaledin 
were at variance, and both were soon to die ; the Cossacks were 
at the most prepared to defend their own lands, and had lost both 
their discipline and their spirit. He had left a fair field for the 



148 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [March 

hundreds of thousands of German, Austrian, and Magyar prisoners 
in Siberia to organize and push Germany's interests between the 
Urals and the Pacific. Even now his agents were at work on this 
vital task. And in north and central Russia there was only the 
foolish anarchism of Smolny, beggared of all repute, and viewed, as 
he believed, with increasing detestation by a starving people. Pres- 
ently the pear would ripen and fall into his hand. There seemed 
no chance of a revival of Russia, for she had no leaders and no 
soldiers to follow them. In a little Germany would intervene 
by request to restore order, and with it a permanent Teutonic 
control. His countrymen, exulting in their bloodless victories, 
saw the Russian menace gone for ever, and a zone of exploitation, 
wider than they had ever dreamed, waiting for their use. The 
Emperor chose to attribute the result to the valor of his troops ; 
Kuhlmann, with greater justice, might have claimed it as the 
triumph of his patient skill. 

But in truth he had had an easy task, for he had been opposed 
by babes. During the Brest Litovsk sittings enthusiasts in the 
West had hailed Trotski's performance as the new "people's" 
diplomacy. But the new diplomacy was only the old bluff. Igno- 
rant alike of human nature and practical affairs, he was a play- 
thing in the hands of his opponents. The Bolsheviks could only 
have succeeded had they possessed a doctrine of such compelling 
power that it commanded forthwith a magical assent from the 
whole earth. But it missed fire everywhere, except among their 
own broken and confused people. Having failed on that score, 
they had no other card. They could offer nothing which Germany 
could not take. They could threaten ; but they had no power 
to enforce their threats, for they had begun their career by de- 
stroying their army. Lenin talked of the Peace of Brest Litovsk 
as like the Peace of Tilsit, under which Russia had suffered indig- 
nities that she had speedily avenged ; and Trotski vapoured about 
raising a new army to throw off the German yoke. But a leader 
cannot preach with acceptance the folly of war and the crime of 
nationalism, and then extemporize in a week armies to defend an 
independence he has scoffed at. 

Such was one side of the Bolsheviks' record. They had lost 
for Russia 26 per cent, of her total population, 27 per cent, of her 
arable land, 37 per cent, of her average crops, 26 per cent of her 
railway system, 33 per cent, of her manufacturing industries, 73 
per cent, of her total iron production, and 75 per cent, of her coal- 
fields. So much for the policy of "no annexation." They had 



I9i8] BOLSHEVISM AND PRUSSIANISM 149 

saddled themselves with a gigantic but as yet unassessed payment 
by way of war tribute, and had been compelled to grant free export 
of oils and a preferential commercial treaty. So much for "no 
indemnities." They had placed under German rule fifty-five 
millions of unwilling Slavs. So much for "self-determination." 
Their achievement in internal government was the same. Being 
boycotted by the educated classes, it was small wonder that they 
showed an unvarying record of administrative failure. Much of 
their policy was naked brigandage. Liberty of discussion, both 
in the press and in public assemblies, disappeared. Atrocities 
happened daily ; but, though these were ofificially deplored, no 
attempt was made to bring the criminals to trial. The houses 
of the well-to-do were looted with impunity ; street robberies 
were hourly incidents; and, since law courts were abolished, the 
only check was the occasional lynching of a detected thief. State 
loans were repudiated, and thousands of innocent people reduced 
to beggary. Banks and factories were confiscated, and left to the 
will of ignorant workmen or the fraudulent satellites of Smolny. 
Taxation became a system of plunder, and immense sums were 
raised and squandered among Red Guards and Bolshevik officials. 
Churches were desecrated ; religion was officially banished from 
marriages and funerals ; divorce was made so easy that it became 
a national pastime. Alcohol, forbidden in Russia since 19 14, 
played its part in the chaos ; for the right of distilling spirits became 
a Bolshevik perquisite, and vodka was a favoured form of Bol- 
shevik propaganda. 

History will make large allowances for the Russian people in 
their hour of tragedy ; but on Bolshevism history has centuries 
ago pronounced its verdict. It was the eternal slave insurrection, 
the revolt of those intolerant or incapable of freedom, whose natural 
aim is the servile state. Its votaries had courage and single-mind- 
edness in their sinister purpose ; but beyond that the most liberal 
apologist dare not go. It outfaced Germany, it is true, and for 
a little of it was anti-German ; but its creed was in essence the 
same as hers, and, as will later appear, the two were soon to drift 
into a natural alliance. Both were tyrannies ; both denied the 
first principles of democracy, and appealed to the single arbitrament 
of force. They were rival Prussianisms, and between the two 
it is likely that the world will prefer the Teutonic brand. There 
is a tale in Malory that Sir Percival, riding through a forest, came 
upon a lion engaged with a serpent, and drew his sword to help 
the former as the "more natural beast of the twain." Of the 



150 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [March 

two beasts that fought over the body of Russia the Prussian was 
the less unnatural. 

The results were grave indeed for the Allies. At a moment 
when Germany had limited the active war to one single front in 
the West she had also won possession of supply grounds in the 
East, of which the potentialities were unknown. Oil, foodstuffs, 
and cotton would now escape the mesh of the blockade. More- 
over, by her access to Central Asia, she was in a position to kindle 
new fires from Persia to China which the Allies would have neither 
the men nor the leisure to extinguish. She had made conquests 
which, even conceding a stalemate in the West, would leave her 
with the most solid and tangible profits from the war. On the 
other hand, the downfall of Russia had taught the world two 
facts which might yet be worth all the immediate disasters. It 
had done much among thinking men to discredit crude and 
facile schemes of social revolution. And it had cast a high light 
upon the policy of Germany, and revealed her as unchanged 
from the war mood of August 1914. The world observed that 
the spurious democracy of the summer of 191 7 had been sloughed 
so soon as her prospects brightened. She had annexed shame- 
lessly, and had imposed terms of bitter humiliation and loss upon 
the unfortunate peoples that had fallen into her hand. Her 
mind was plain, her purpose writ so large that the most stubborn 
German apologist among the Allies could not but read it. More 
than ever did the war appear as a struggle to the death between 
a free civilization and that which must crush it or be crushed by 
it, but could not be parleyed with. 

The repute of the Slav both in the council and in the field had 
sunk thus low, when there came a revival from an unexpected 
quarter. The Czechs of Bohemia, and their kinsmen the Slovaks 
of Northern Hungary, had clung for four centuries to their national 
culture. They were conscripted by the Dual Monarchy ; but 
their hearts were with the cause of the Slav, and whole regiments, 
like the 28th of Prague, had deserted to the Russian side. After 
the Revolution a Czecho-Slovak brigade was formed, which soon 
became a division, and formed the spear-point of Brussilov's last 
offensive. If Russia declined to fight, so would not they, and they 
demanded to be sent to France to continue the war. The Bol- 
sheviks were willing that they should leave Russia, and in February 
two divisions were granted a passage to Vladivostok. But when 
peace was signed at Brest Litovsk the bulk of the Czecho-Slovak 
forces were in the Ukraine, and their position became desperate 



I9i8] THE CZECHO-SLOVAKS 151 

in view of Linsingen's advance. Their flanks were turned, and 
the Germans held the railroad one hundred miles in their rear. 
Nevertheless they cut their way through, and, to prove their loyalty 
to the Government then in being, surrendered most of their equip- 
ment to the Bolsheviks, though a single regiment of them could 
have taken Moscow. Then began their amazing journey east- 
ward, betrayed time and again by Bolshevik treachery, their 
wounded murdered, attacked daily by Red Guards and Austro- 
German prisoners led by German agents. Yet they most honour- 
ably refused to fight with Russians or to meddle with Russian 
politics, and neither threats nor cajolery could turn them from 
their purpose. After fifty-six days the vanguard of this new Ten 
Thousand reached the sea — surely one of the miracles of history — 
while other detachments remained in western Siberia and on the 
road to Archangel. In the self-restraint, single-heartedness, and 
courage of the Czecho-Slovaks lay the promise of the future resur- 
gence of their race. 



CHAPTER XCI 

POLITICAL REACTIONS 
October igij-April i8, 1918 

Lord Lansdowne's Letter — Discussion of War Aims — A "League of Nations " 
— President Wilson's Fourteen Points — M. Clemenceau becomes Premier 
of France — Mr. Lloyd George's Position — The War Cabinet — The 
" Business Man " — The Surveyor-General of Supply — Retirement of Lord 
Jellicoe — Criticism of Army Management — Unity of Command — The 
Versailles Council — The Executive Committee — Resignation of Sir 
William Robertson — Weakness of the Versailles Arrangement — Lord 
Milner becomes Secretary of War. 



The dramatic changes of fortune in the autumn and winter of 
191 7 could not but affect the course of politics in all the belligerent 
countries. We have seen the reactions due to the Russian Revo- 
lution, and these were continued and intensified by Caporetto and 
Cambrai and the Bolshevik adventure. Two subjects above others 
dominated the political thought of Europe and America at the 
moment, and both derived their origin from the puzzlement of 
the world, the reversal of hopes and calculations, and the sense 
that the contest had entered upon a new and more desperate phase. 
One was the exact war aims of the combatants ; the other the need 
for a drastic revision of war methods. Both inquiries had the 
same general purpose — a closer unity in thought and action. The 
struggle was now in its fourth year, and the human mind was 
driven to explore its purpose, with a view not only to a still far-off 
peace, but to the unanimity of spirit needful in alliances about to 
undergo a fierier trial. So also failure and hope deferred compelled 
an inspection of every weapon to decide if it were bright and keen 
enough for its task. This process of self-examination was most 
marked among the Allies, who for the moment were the butt of 
fortune; the Central Powers had, after the spasm of unrest in 
July, won such confidence in the proven value of their methods 

IS2 



I9I71 LORD LANSDOVVNE'S LETTER 153 

that they were concerned only to use the new mood of their enemies 
as a means of sowing distrust among them and inspiring disunion. 

But even among the Central Powers there were doubters in the 
general jubilation. They were chiefly found in Austria, which had 
long ago lost heart in the war, and was faced with the unpleas- 
ing alternatives of defeat — which meant disruption — and vic- 
tory, which involved a phantom existence under German tutelage. 
In either case her bankruptcy was assured. Count Czernin, her 
Foreign Minister, had a hankering after emotional liberalism ; 
he courted popularity, and showed an amiable weakness for the 
rhetoric as opposed to the substance of democracy. At a public 
dinner at Budapest early in October he gave his own views of peace, 
forecasting a general disarmament and a League of Nations, now 
that Central Europe had shown that it could not be subdued by 
force of arms. His main argument was financial — that contin- 
ued expenditure on armaments on the scale which modern war de- 
manded would mean the ruin of every state. He added that, as 
a pre-condition of the golden age he hoped for, the "freedom of 
the high seas" must be established, and the idea of economic war 
banished from the world. To the Austrian Minister belonged, at 
any rate, the credit of divining the greatest peril which lay in front 
of the conquering Teutonic League. This was before Caporetto ; 
after it, on the 28th of November, the new German Imperial Chan- 
cellor in the Reichstag spoke in a different tone. Count Hertling 
recapitulated with serious joy the achievements of his country, and 
congratulated his hearers on the unanimity of all German hearts. 
"Nothing can, nothing shall, be changed in the foundations of our 
imperial constitution." The war, he said, was a war on Germany's 
part not of aggression but of sober and honourable defence. 'Brest 
Litovsk was soon to prove that this defence was the defence not 
of her frontiers but of her conquests. 

On the following day a British newspaper published a letter 
from Lord Lansdowne, a former British Foreign Secretary, which 
gave a notable stimulus to peace discussions throughout Europe. 
Much of it was in matter sound and indisputable ; all of it was 
guarded and temperate in tone. The gist of his argument was 
that he detected signs of a possibility of satisfactory negotiations 
with the enemy, provided Germany were given guarantees on 
five points ; for if her peace party had such assurances they could 
bear down the opposition of the fanatics. The points were : that 
the Allies did not seek the annihilation of Germany as a Great 
Power; that they did not seek to impose on her a government 



154 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Dec. 

other than that of her own choice ; that, "except as a legitimate 
war measure," they did not wish to destroy Germany's commer- 
cial future ; that after the war they were willing to examine in con- 
ference the international questions concerned with the "freedom of 
the seas " ; that they were prepared to enter into an international 
pact for the settlement of international disputes by peaceful means. 
No single one of Lord Lansdowne's propositions need have aroused 
violent disagreement in any section of the Allies, and most were 
fair statements of Allied policy. But the orientation of the letter 
was false, though it did not merit the abuse which a section of the 
British press poured upon the writer, heedless of his years and his 
long record of public service. It was an echo from a past age, a 
vanished age of sedate diplomatic bargaining, when peace was 
made between combatants by a little give and take of territory 
and a few concessions to national pride. His appeal was based 
on two assumptions, one of them false, the other indisputably 
true : that a complete Allied victory in the field was impossible 
(an opinion at this time held by many soldiers and civilians among 
the Allies) ; and that in any case a war to a finish would destroy 
or radically alter those social and political institutions in Europe 
which he held dear. But the mischief lay less in what he said than 
in what he left unsaid. His tepid statement of the Allied purpose 
was so inadequate that it sounded to the enemy like a confession 
of defeat. And the mischief was increased by the use made of 
the aged statesman by the small and extreme pacificist section 
who were willing for their own ends to exploit this voice from a 
dying world which for all other purposes they rejected with scorn. 
By December the public discussion of war aims was fairly 
launched among the Allies. Mr. Wilson's address to Congress on 
4th December, besides announcing a declaration of war on Austria- 
Hungary, repeated in unmistakable terms what had always been 
the central point of American policy, that peace could not be dis- 
cussed, much less made, with the present rulers of Germany. The 
time for negotiations would come "when the German people have 
spokesmen whose word we can believe." On nth December Mr. 
Asquith at Birmingham repeated this declaration with his own 
felicity of phrase, and three days later Mr. Lloyd George dealt 
trenchantly with the attitude revealed in the Lansdowne letter. 
A peace of victory, he said, was essential for the Allies, since a 
true peace involved reparation by and punishment of the wrong- 
doers, and it was idle to expect the wrongdoer to negotiate honestly 
on such matters. He warned his hearers that there was no half- 



I9I7] THE DISCUSSION ON WAR AIMS 155 

way house between defeat and victory, and that the danger to the 
State lay not in the extreme pacificists, but in the upholders of war 
who had grown weary by the way. But the most significant event 
of the month was the approval by a special Labour Conference of 
a memorandum on war aims drafted by representatives of British 
Labour — a memorandum subsequently accepted by an Inter-Allied 
Labour and Socialist Conference held in London in the following 
February. The Labpur Party was in a favourable position to per- 
form such a task. Unlike the other parties, it had not been drawn 
wholesale into the administrative machine, and it possessed mem- 
bers, men of great ability and knowledge, who had the leisure and 
the aloofness to meditate upon the future. The document had 
some of the faults of its class. It was inclined to vagueness and 
wordiness, and its proposals as to the destiny of tropical Africa 
were scarcely within the limits of practical politics. But on the 
main matters it adequately expressed the sense of the Allied peoples, 
and it had the special merit that in the multitude of lesser aims it 
never lost sight of the essential purpose of the war. The perform- 
ance did credit to the insight and the judgment of British Labour. 

The issue of this memorandum made it desirable that the Brit- 
ish Government should follow suit with an official pronouncement. 
Hitherto they had not condescended to details, contenting them- 
selves with approving the numerous manifestoes of the American 
President. There were some who were averse to any specification 
of terms, save the widest generalities, showing the traditional 
British distrust of definitions. For our nation has ever been 
strangely disinclined to envisage the future, being, in Milton's 
words, "valiant, indeed, and prosperous to win a field, but to 
know the end and reason of winning, un judicious and unwise." 
But such critics failed to distinguish between a statement of pur- 
pose in order to make the prosecution of the war more eflfective 
and a premature offer of terms to the enemy in order to bring the 
war to an end. They failed, also, to realize the new phase on 
which the whole question had entered. 

The overtures from the enemy — not only his official state- 
ments, but the subtler working of Kuhlmann's emissaries — had 
engendered a mood which demanded a clear and definite restate- 
ment of purpose. Circumstances had issued, in Necker's phrase, 
an "invitation to thinkers." The Allies must be united in their 
declared war objects as well as in their war mechanism. Again, 
the publication by the Bolsheviks of various secret treaties from 
the archives of Petrograd had proved that the temper of 191 5 



156 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Dec-Jan. 

clashed a little with that of 1917. Those treaties provided for 
annexations by Italy in Dalmatia, Anatolia, and the ^gean, and 
by Rumania in districts scarcely Rumanian ; Russia was to have 
Constantinople, and a free hand to annex not only German Po- 
land but East Prussia ; and there was evidence that responsible 
statesmen in France had considered at one time not only the re- 
turn of Alsace-Lorraine, but the acquiring of German territory on 
the west bank of the Rhine. In 191 5 such provisions had seemed 
justifiable to the governments concerned in order to provide for 
the Allies that national security which was threatened by the Cen- 
tral Powers. The war had been entered upon by them for the 
cause of nationalism, and nationalism in the narrow sense is apt 
to think mainly of frontiers and territorial adjustments. 

But by 191 7 the Allies had come to conceive the problem other- 
wise. The future security of the world depended less upon jug- 
gling with boundaries than upon the destruction of Germany's 
power of offence. If the evil thing in Germany remained, no 
adjustment of territory would safeguard civilization ; if it dis- 
appeared, such adjustment fell into its proper place as a means 
towards the greater end, to be applied with the concurrence and 
goodwill of the whole world. National security was not to be 
won by increasing national strength for armed defence, but by 
decreasing the danger of attack and the power of the attacker. 
The change was due largely to the clear vision of America, but 
also in a great degree to a new phenomenon. The war had begun 
by strengthening nationalism, the patriotism of the homogeneous 
unit ; but as it continued, a certain internationalism had grown 
up, not as a substitute for the other, but as a creed which embraced 
and enriched it. Just as during the nineteenth century dynastic 
loyalties had given place to national loyalties, so the latter were 
being translated into wider aims, which to a large extent cut across 
existing political divisions. This movement was not hostile to 
patriotism, but it regarded the national ideal as not in itself ade- 
quate to meet the demands of society. Nationalism did not 
promise final relief from those ills of which the war was the cli- 
max ; it could not by itself remove the "covering cast over all 
peoples, and the veil that is brought over all nations." 

Thoughtful minds throughout the Alliance were therefore in- 
clined to put the war purpose somewhat as follows : The anti- 
social, anti-national spirit of Prussianism must be broken in the 
field, and thus degraded and banished from the world ; but se- 
curity for free development cannot be found merely in the destruc- 



1917-18] A LEAGUE OF NATIONS 157 

tion of the enemy, nor can it be won by annexations and adjust- 
ments, which involve a perpetual armed wardenship of the 
marches ; it can be found only in the provision of a new interna- 
tional sanction to guarantee by the combined forces of civilization 
the rights of each unit. It will be seen that the centre of gravity 
had moved a long way from the secret treaties of 1915- 

Hence a League of Nations was the fundamental war aim ; the 
rest were only machinery to provide a clean foundation for it. 
Unfortunately this was not fully recognized at the time by any 
Allied Government save America, and M. Clemenceau went out 
of his way to declare the conception unbalanced and unpractical. 
Yet it was the only practical ideal before the world, in the sense 
that it was the only one which met the whole needs of the case. If 
a statement of war aims was meant to solidify the Alliance and 
drive a wedge between Prussianism and the German people, then a 
sound internationalism must be the first item in the programme. 
It offered the Allies an enduring union, based on co-operation in- 
stead of rivalry ; it offered the German people security for their 
rights of possession and development so soon as they discarded 
their false gods ; it offered a world weary of strife some hope of a 
lasting peace. In the words of the Labour Party's statement: 
"Whoever triumphs, the people will have lost unless an interna- 
tional system is established which will prevent war. It would 
mean nothing to declare the right of peoples to self-determination 
if this right were left at the mercy of new violations." ." 

On January 5, 1918, the Prime Minister issued to the Trade 
Union delegates met in conference a statement, framed after con- 
sultation with Mr. Asquith, Lord Grey of Fallodon, and the repre- 
sentatives of the Overseas Dominions. He began by declaring 
what Britain was not fighting for — the destruction of Germany 
or Austria-Hungary, or that part of Turkey which was truly Turk- 
ish. Her aims in Europe were : the complete restoration of Bel- 
gium, Serbia, and Montenegro, and the occupied parts of France, 
Italy, and Rumania, with indemnification for losses; the resto- 
ration to France of Alsace-Lorraine ; an independent Poland, 
comprising all the genuine Polish elements which desired to be 
included in a national state ; true self-government for the Austro- 
Hungarian nationalities that desired it ; and the satisfaction of 
the legitimate irredentist claims of Italy and Rumania. Outside 
Europe, she was prepared to allow Constantinople to remain the 
Turkish capital, provided the sea passage between the Black Sea 
and the Mediterranean were internationalized ; Arabia, Armenia, 



158 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Jan. 

Mesopotamia, Syria, and Palestine were to be entitled to the recog- 
nition of their separate national characters ; the German colonies 
in Africa were to be held at the disposal of a Conference which 
would have primary regard to the interests of the native inhabi- 
tants. There must be reparation for injuries done by the enemy 
in defiance of international law, especially as regards the sub- 
marine outrages. Finally, an international organization must be 
created to limit armaments and diminish the possibilities of war. 

In substance the declaration was sound so far as it went, but 
it was not skilful in its phrasing or in the arrangement of its parts. 
The League of Nations was brought in as a tailpiece, when it 
should have been the preface, since on it depended the justice of 
all the territorial provisions. As a means of formally codifying 
the Allied war aims the statement was valuable ; but obviously it 
could have little persuasive effect on the German people, inasmuch 
as the various Allied demands were not organically related to a 
principle which would provide also for Germany's security. On 
8th January President Wilson issued a similar document, embody- 
ing America's views in fourteen points, which were destined to 
hold the ground for the next year as the Allied charter.* These 
points were virtually the same as Mr. Lloyd George's, save that 
they included a reference to "freedom of navigation in peace and 
war," and dealt more fully with the League of Nations. 

* The points were : — 

( I . ) Open covenants of peace and no secret diplomacy in the future. 

(2.) Absolute freedom of navigation in peace and war outside territorial 
waters, except when seas may be closed by international action. 

(3.) Removal as far as possible of all economic barriers. 

(4.) Adequate guarantees for the reduction of national armaments. 

(5.) An absolutely impartial adjustment of colonial claims, the interests of 
the peoples concerned having equal weight with the claims of the Government 
whose title is to be determined. 

(6. ) All Russian territory to be evacuated, and Russia given full opportunity 
for self-development, the Powers aiding. 

(7.) Complete restoration of Belgium in full and free sovereignty. 

(8.) All French territory freed, and the wrong done by Prussia in 1871 in 
the matter of Alsace-Lorraine righted. 

(9.) Readjustment of Italian frontiers on lines of nationality. 

(10.) Peoples of Austria-Hungary accorded an opportunity of autonomous 
development. 

(11.) Rumania, Serbia, and Montenegro evacuated, Serbia given access to the 
sea, and relations of Balkan States settled on lines of allegiance and nationality. 

(12.) Non-Turkish nationalities in the Ottoman Empire assured of autono- 
mous development, and the Dardanelles to be permanently free to all ships. 

(13.) An independent Polish State. 

(14.) A general association of nations must be formed under specific cove- 
nants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence 
Stnd territorial integrity to great and smallStates alike. 



I9i8] MR. WILSON'S FOURTEEN POINTS 159 

To the American manifesto Germany and Austria hastened to 
make answer, and during January both Count Hertling and Count 
Czernin discussed it in detail in public speeches. That month and 
the first week of February saw serious Labour unrest in both 
countries. There was something not unlike a general stoppage of 
work in Austria, and dangerous strikes at Berlin, Kiel, Hamburg, 
and Munich. In every case they were sternly quelled with the 
aid of the soldiers, and in Germany the Scheidemann party took 
the side of the Government. But these proofs of discontent com- 
pelled the statesmen of Central Europe to walk warily, and the 
German and Austrian replies to President Wilson were diplomatic 
documents, directed as much to their own peoples as to America. 
Both Hertling and Czernin welcomed the President's more gen- 
eral provisions — such as the League of Nations, free navigation, 
and no economic war or secret diplomacy — declaring that in 
these clauses he had expressed the deepest aspirations of their 
hearts. To the detailed proposals they demurred. Hertling de- 
clined to talk about Russia, declaring that the arrangements made 
at Brest Litovsk were wholly a matter between Russia and the 
Central Powers, though Czernin suggested a compromise. As 
for Belgium, its forcible annexation was no part of German policy ; 
but its evacuation and restoration could not be undertaken till the 
Allies accepted the principle of the territorial integrity of the Cen- 
tral Powers and their allies. Hertling refused the demand for 
Alsace-Lorraine ; Czernin repudiated the demands as to Italy, 
Rumania, Serbia, and Montenegro ; both declined to entertain 
the Turkish proposals, and both declared that Poland was a ques- 
tion for the Central Powers alone to consider. 

On nth February Mr, Wilson in his address to Congress laid 
down four fundamental principles as the pre-conditions of peace. 
These were : that each part of the final settlement must be based 
upon the essential justice of that particular case, and must like- 
wise contribute towards a permanent peace ; that peoples must 
not be bartered from sovereignty to sovereignty as if they were 
chattels ; that all territorial settlements must be made in the in- 
terest of the populations concerned ; and that all well-defined 
national aspirations must be given the fullest satisfaction, pro- 
vided that in so doing no new elements of discord were introduced 
or old antagonisms perpetuated. On 25th February Count Hert- 
ling, in the Reichstag, accepted the four principles, fortifying 
himself by quotations from St. Augustine. As it happened, he 
had just approved the treaties with Bolshevik Russia, Rumania, 



i6o A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Nov. 

and the Ukraine, and had the boldness to claim these master- 
pieces of spoliation as consistent with American ideals. The thing 
was so out of tune with his speeches of January that shrewd observ- 
ers suspected a new policy. They were right, for by this time the 
Army chiefs had appeared before the secret session of the Reichs- 
tag and promised Germany complete victory in the field. The 
Imperial Chancellor might well amuse himself at America's ex- 
pense by lip service to dogmas which his actions defied ; before the 
autumn came Germany hoped to be beyond the need of quibbling 
over pedantries, and to be dictating her terms to a submissive world. 

II 

We have already seen the political events of the autumn and 
winter in Russia and Italy. In France it had been long apparent 
that M. Ribot's Ministry was losing power. It was unpopular 
with the Socialists ; it was not greatly trusted by the Army ; and 
on 7th September it placed its resignation in the President's hands. 
On I2th September M. Painleve, the former Minister of War, be- 
came Premier, with a Cabinet largely formed out of the old ; the 
Socialists stood outside, but announced that they would support 
the Ministry if it merited their support. For two uneasy months 
M. Painleve remained in ofifice. He was a man of great ability 
and most honest purpose ; but he failed to appeal to the interest 
and imagination of his countrymen, and, being an indifferent 
speaker, he had little weight in the Chamber. Early in Novem- 
ber the situation became impossible : the Ministry fell, and the 
President took the bold step of entrusting M. Clemenceau with 
the formation of a government. On i6th November M. Clemen- 
ceau took office, and defied the malcontent Socialists by going on 
his way without them. The military situation since Caporetto 
had become grave, and he called upon the good sense of republican 
France to show a steady front to the enemy. His countrymen re- 
sponded with a support which no French Ministry since the out- 
break of war had enjoyed, and the world was presented with the 
exhilarating spectacle of a man who despised party intrigue, re- 
jected all counsels of worldly prudence, appealed, like Chatham, 
to the nation behind the placemen — and won. 

Georges Clemenceau was at this time seventy-six years of age, 
and since his early youth had played a notable part in public affairs. 
He was the French spirit incarnate — a master of the beau geste, a 
maker and destroyer of governments, a man with an inexhaustible 



1917] GEORGES CLEMENCEAU 161 

zest for life, brilliant, warm-hearted, catholic in his Interests, and 
endowed with unhesitating courage. He was such a figure as at 
the back of his heart every Frenchman loves, and he could count 
upon this national inclination, as he could count upon the confidence 
of the men in the trenches. The peculiar strength of his position 
was that he was utterly single-hearted, suffering from no doubts 
as to the perfect justice of his cause and the complete villainy 
of his adversaries. His creed was nineteenth-century radicalism — 
nationalist, anti-clerical, rational — with no mysticism or loose 
fringes. Hence every hesitation, moral or intellectual, every 
sublety that might distract the national mind or weaken the 
national front, he met with relentless and contemptuous opposi- 
tion. In a world of wavering counsels his courage, his ardour, 
even his narrowness were the qualities most needed — especially 
in France, whose heart was being made sick by hope deferred. 
His business was to guide and encourage his country in the fiery 
trials he saw approaching, and not less to cleanse public life from 
the foul stuff which clogged the nation's effort. Ever since the 
spring France had been gravely perturbed by treacherous elements 
in her midst — German agents who seduced her baser press and 
venal politicians, sinister figures that strove to bring the pacificism 
of the extreme socialists into line with defaitisme in other lands, and 
so play the game of Berlin. Against such treason M. Clemenceau 
declared truceless war. The small fry of intrigue were arrested, 
tried, and punished. M. Malvy, a former Minister of the Interior, 
under whose regime of complaisance the mischief had grown, was 
not spared, and In time found his reward In exile. But the new Pre- 
mier did not strike only at underlings. M. Caillaux, the great mas- 
ter of the backstairs, had since 1914 been leading a strange, peri- 
patetic life, and wherever he went mischief seemed to seed and 
flourish. No French Government had hitherto dared to attack 
this formidable personage, who held more than one political 
group in the hollow of his hand. But M. Clemenceau dared. In 
December he decided to bring M. Caillaux before a court-martial 
on the charge of having endangered the security of the State, 
and on January 14, 1918, M. Caillaux, to his immense surprise, 
was arrested. 

Ill 

In Britain the position of Mr. Lloyd George was not seriously 
attacked. His energy, his emotional vitality, even the speed with 
which he made decisions only to rescind them, while perturbing to 



i62 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Jan. 

sober, old-fashioned people, were not unacceptable to a nation 
which had an acute sense of urgent problems and but little leisure 
to reflect upon the best solution. He had been a year in office, 
and his peculiar qualities and defects were now revealed to his 
colleagues, and — more dimly — to the nation at large. There 
were those who saw in him the greatest war Minister since Chat- 
ham ; there was no lack of critics who denied to him any gift ex- 
cept a low cunning ; the truth, as he himself was accustomed to 
declare, lay in neither extreme. His defects were obvious for all 
to see. Lacking the normal education of those engaged in British 
public life, he had amazing gaps in his mental furniture, and con- 
sequently was without that traditional sense of proportion which 
often gives an air of wisdom to mediocrities. He had a unique 
power of assimilating knowledge, but not an equal power of re- 
taining it. He could master a complex subject at lightning speed, 
but next morning the whole affair would be wiped from his memory. 
Hence his mental processes were somewhat lacking in continuity, 
for he had to be informed so frequently on a subject de novo; all was 
atomic and episodic, brilliant flashes rather than a steady light. 
His mind had nothing of the scientific in it, it was curiously in- 
sensitive to guiding principles, and each iritellectual act was a new 
and unrelated effort. All his vigour would be switched on to this 
line or that, and there was no even diffusion of power simultane- 
ously through many channels. As a consequence he was a bad 
administrator, for the art of administration is to hold many wires 
at once in the same hand ; and he was oddly inept in military ques- 
tions, where a so-called flair is nonsensical unless based upon a 
strong understanding of fundamental truths. 

But without these faults it is probable that the world would not 
have had the benefit of his virtues, which to a notable degree were 
the qualities of his defects. The lack of ordinary knowledge 
saved him from the dominion of the ordinary platitudes. The 
fact that his mind was not a continuum, as the phrase goes, but a 
thing discrete and perpetually remade, kept him from lassitude 
and staleness. The world to which he woke each morning was a 
new birth of time to be faced with all the interest of the pioneer. 
And the fact that one subject must at the moment exclude all 
others, gave him in that one subject a terrific momentum, the one- 
ideaed energy and concentration which is a most formidable 
^weapon in war. His loose hold on principles kept him from for- 
malism, and opportunism is often the right attitude in a crisis. 
The whole combination — ignorance, volatility, ardour, absorp- 



I9i8] MR. LLOYD GEORGE 163 

tion in the task of the moment, opportunism, adventurous inter- 
est — spelled that first of the virtues in a war Minister : courage 
de tete, fearlessness in the face of a swiftly changing world. He 
did not ask to see a map of the path ; but he was prepared without 
reservation to grapple with any and all of the terrors of pilgrimage. 
Too much was made by his admirers of his imagination, which was 
narrow in its range and commonplace in its quality. Had it been 
more powerful his intellectual courage might have been less sure. 

His character had much in common with his mind. He was 
essentially good-humoured and kindly ; he was without personal 
vanity ; he had no vulgarity in his composition, though he was 
shrewdly aware of it in others and knew how to use it. One ob- 
vious fault was that he had a temperamental dislike of straight 
roads, and preferred to reach even an easy goal by a roundabout 
course — a foible, perhaps, rather than a fault, and a mannerism 
rather than a vice, for there was little to complain of in the trait 
except its needlessness. A more serious charge was that he was a 
difficult colleague because of a kind of naive disloyalty. He did 
not appear to trust any man fully, and he had little of that fine 
tradition of the public service by which a Minister is bound to 
stand by a subordinate. Whoever worked with him or under him 
worked with his flanks exposed to the sniper. Yet it seems prob- 
able that this charge, the commonest made against him, was ex- 
aggerated, or at any rate misconstrued. He knew so little about, 
and believed so little in, most forms of expert knowledge that he 
would seek it, when he wanted it, anywhere but in the proper 
department. During his first year as Prime Minister he evinced a 
strange timidity towards the press, and resorted often to undigni- 
fied means to win its favour. He had not discovered, as he did 
later, that the press of Britain is, on the whole, a thing of honour 
and sound breeding, and that the way to earn its support is to 
earn its respect by independence. Also the journalist with his 
up-to-date knowledge in capsules was the kind of purveyor of 
intelligence that his tastes required, and he sometimes relied on 
him to the exclusion of better authorities. It was said, not with- 
out truth at the time, that the Government of Britain was Mr. 
Lloyd George and the last journalist he talked with. 

The keynote of his character, as of his mind, was vitality, and 
his very defects ministered to this major virtue. He was a man 
of a myriad acquaintances, who rarely made friendships. Every 
one who came into contact with him was impressed by his resource 
and power, but few were attracted by personal charm, for of com- 



i64 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Jan. 

mon human warmth there was little. All was given to the State, 
nothing was dissipated in the interests and ties which make up 
the lives of most men. Many of his talents and endowments, 
such as his parliamentary tact, his subtlety in the management of 
colleagues, his debating skill, even his remarkable eloquence, how- 
ever invaluable to a statesman in normal times, were of less ac- 
count in war. But one gift he had which is so rare and so inex- 
plicable that it may rightly be called genius. In the darkest days 
his vitality soared above the fog and made a kind of light by its 
very ardour. He might be himself half -afraid, willing to toy with 
unworthy terms, impatient of the long view and the wise course, 
but that same magnetic effluence was there to inspire cooler heads 
and, it is possible, braver hearts. He could not be defeated, be- 
cause his spirit of buoyancy and zest was insatiable, and there- 
fore unconquerable. Such a being will be most fallible, compelling 
both admiration and despair, but to one who deserved so greatly 
of the commonwealth much will be forgiven. 

The report issued by the War Cabinet on the first complete year 
of its work was a record of strenuous activity, not only in the prose- 
cution of the war, but in many branches of imperial and domestic 
reform. It seemed, indeed, as if an itch for change had fallen 
upon Ministers and people, and far-reaching reforms, which had 
no conceivable relation to the war, were made in the franchise, 
in education, in Indian administration. It would have been well 
if some of these novelties had been postponed to a more leisured 
day, when their faults could have been expunged and their value 
increased. But if some things had been done badly, and many 
crudely, much had been done well. Mr. Bonar Law, in a speech 
in the House of Commons on February 13, 1918, set forth certain 
striking figures. In 191 7 the Army had been increased by 820,645 
men, and 731,000 men and 804,000 women had been placed in 
civil employment at home. A million additional acres had been 
brought under the plough. There were two million more quarters 
of wheat in the country than at the end of 1916. British shipyards 
had produced 624,000 more tons ; and our ships were better used, 
for whereas before the war every 100 tons net of shipping brought 
to the country 106 tons of goods, they now brought 150 tons. 
Nearly two million more tons of timber had been produced at home. 
The number of guns available for France had increased by 30 per 
cent., and the supply of airplanes was two and a half times as great 
as in the preceding year. The War Cabinet and Mr. Lloyd George 
had justified their office, and though the former was in some re- 



I9i8] THE WAR CABINET 165 

spects a glaringly imperfect mechanism of government, the ordinary 
citizen was not disposed to criticize it. If a machine is being used 
every hour of the day and night, it is difificult to overhaul and amend 
it. It was the loosest of bodies in its methods of consultation, 
being one long desultory discussion on every conceivable topic to 
which was summoned every conceivable type of consultant. That 
it did not break down was due mainly to its secretary. Sir Maurice 
Hankey, who laboured heroically to guide its steps towards the 
agenda of the day, and managed by tact and firmness to snatch 
decisions from the broad stream of irrelevant debate. 

The War Cabinet was the supreme executive of the nation and 
its instructions were carried out by the various Ministers and de- 
partments ; but there were certain special duties, arising out of the 
war, which either concerned many departments simultaneously, 
or were so novel that no machinery existed for their fulfilment. 
These had to be performed directly by the War Cabinet itself, and 
the burden of them fell principally upon two men. One was Gen- 
eral Smuts, who showed in civil matters a versatility and an 
adroitness as conspicuous as his skill in the field, and a long-sighted 
patience which no trials of fortune could perturb. In a certain 
kind of informal diplomacy he was without an equal, and, just 
as a great advocate is often briefed in impossible cases, so Gen- 
eral Smuts's competence induced the Prime Minister to saddle 
him sometimes with preposterous missions. The other was Lord 
Milner, who, from the start of the War Cabinet, had quietly borne 
the weight of its most difficult tasks. He was the foremost living 
British administrator, and no more powerful intellect and pure 
and resolute character have been devoted in our time to the public 
service. He cared nothing for popularity, and had no oratorical 
gifts ; by a fortunate chance he was the natural complement in 
most things of the Prime Minister ; and in spite of the strange 
malice with which he was still pursued by political opponents a 
great confidence in him was growing up in the nation. 

The normal departments of Government were violently dis- 
located by the war, the duties of all were manifolded, and latent 
weaknesses were ruthlessly laid bare. On the whole they stood 
the test well, and under the pressure of necessity simplified their 
ritual and accelerated their speed. The most efficient was be- 
yond doubt the War Office ; it met new problems with an expan- 
sion which was natural, logical, and on the whole thrifty ; and 
there were few abler servants of the State than men like Sir John 
Cowans, the Quartermaster-General, who modestly andunosten- 



i66 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Jan. 

tatiously performed miracles. Contrary to general opinion the 
Foreign Office was not far behind. It is often an advantage for a 
department of State to be unpopular and derided, for it can do its 
work without those acclamations which turn the heads of their 
recipients. That official is, as a rule, the most effective whose 
very name is unknown in the market-place. The Treasury was 
less successful. War is a hard time for economists, and it is also 
to be said in the Treasury's defence that some of its ablest men 
were diverted to special duties. But, whatever the cause, the 
great spending departments were virtually uncontrolled, and the 
Treasury concentrated its efforts on squabbling over small in- 
creases in humble salaries, like some watch-dog that bites the 
milkman but fawns on the burglar. Money was poured out like 
water, for the prudent margin of safety in all types of war require- 
ment was liberally interpreted. Also the creation of new Min- 
istries and the extension of old ones seemed to inspire a passion for 
bureaucracy for its own sake, and departments contended with 
each other in the invention of new duties till almost every side 
of life felt the unwelcome hand of the State. One result was to 
cure the ordinary Briton of any communistic hankerings, and to 
revive with an intensity that was almost a /passion the individual- 
ism of his forefathers. 

Mr. Lloyd George's "business man" had now been on trial for a 
year. The day of his downfall was not yet, he was still a popular 
fetish, and what the jargon of the day knew as the "live wire" 
was still eagerly sought as a departmental head. The explanation 
of the phenomenon was that a people a little disillusioned with 
politicians turned to the extreme opposite — the plain man who did 
his work successfully without talking. It was the same romantic 
craving which the North showed in the American Civil War, when 
at the start it demanded "young Napoleons." But just as the 
North had to end with Grant, so Britain had to fall back for the 
bulk of the work on the civil servant. The reaction against the 
"business man" was speedy and violent, and it is not likely that 
he will be popular with the future historian. He was too richly 
rewarded for his modest labours ; he was also too frequently a 
grotesque failure, lacking in knowledge, in tact, in judgment, in 
every quality of statesmanship. The truth is that the words 
"business man" were given a false definition. They did not mean 
only those who were in a true sense creators and captains of indus- 
tries ; at one time, judging by various appointments, they seemed 
to mean simply those who had made money. But a man who has 



191 8] THE "BUSINESS MAN" 167 

won a great fortune on the Stock Exchange, or in a mining venture, 
or by catching the public taste with a newspaper, or in any other 
form of gamble, may be without a vestige of administrative talent. 
And such in fact were more than one of the Government's dis- 
coveries. 

But to the genuine "business man," the organizer and creator, 
the gratitude of Britain was deeply pledged. The Ministry of 
Munitions was guilty of blunders and wastefulness, but it per- 
formed a colossal task without which an Allied victory was im- 
possible. Woolwich Arsenal employed 11,000 men in August 
1914 ; in 1917 it employed 96,000. In 1914 Birmingham pro- 
duced thirty Lewis guns a week; in 1917 the figure was 2,000. 
In 1 9 14 we manufactured just over a thousand magnetos in the 
year; in 191 7 we produced more than 126,000 for aircraft alone. 
The first credit for these achievements must go to the workmen, 
who toiled long hours at hard, monotonous labour, but the second 
belongs to the business men who staffed the Ministry and its end- 
less local ramifications. That was one, perhaps the most conspic- 
uous, case ; but there were others. The Ministry of Shipping was 
a harmonious and efficient combination of the business man and 
the civil servant. The Ministry of Food, faced with a most vexa- 
tious and all but impossible task, had succeeded in so regulating 
the supply and distribution of the staple articles of diet that the 
winter of 191 7-1 8 saw little hardship and no real want. This was 
largely the doing of Lord Rhondda, one of the principal Welsh 
coal-owners, who died in 1918, having sacrificed his life to his work 
as much as a soldier in the field. But if we seek for a dramatic 
instance of the value of the business mind in a Ministry, we shall 
find it in the department at the War Office of the Surveyor-General 
of Supply. In March 191 7 Mr. Andrew Weir (afterwards Lord 
Inverforth), a Scottish shipowner, was commissioned to examine 
and report upon the contract and supply side of the War office. 
He made his report, and in May was invited to fill a new post, 
that of Surveyor-General of Supply, with a seat on the Army 
Council. His aim was to buy as economically as possible, but to 
buy enough, for any blunder meant a breakdown in the efficiency 
of the Army ; therefore, instead of buying manufactured articles 
in small quantities a short way ahead, he bought raw material in 
large quantities direct in the country of origin. This put it be- 
yond the power of any one to stint supply, and it saved sums run- 
ning into hundreds of millions to the taxpayer. As one instance 
of his dealings — for the sum of 250 millions he bought the whole 



I68 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Jan. 

Australasian wool clip for three years. His prices were a percen- 
tage on pre-war rates, and by introducing a careful costing system 
he limited the manufacturers' and dealers' profits. By an economy 
committee, which he established, he secured enormous savings, 
often by a simple alteration of pattern in an article of general use. 
By his salvage department he turned the debris of war into money. 
He bought also for the Allies of Britain, and it was largely his aid 
which enabled America to equip her great armies in time. Lastly, 
he converted the whole commercial side of the War Office to his 
methods, and in this case the business man and the public ser- 
vant worked to one purpose in perfect amity and understanding.* 
The main preoccupation of the Government during these months 
was with the improvement of the fighting machine, chiefly in the 
direction of headquarters reform. Their intention was good, but 
they were unfortunate in some of their ventures, and consistently 
unfortunate in their treatment of personal questions. To take 
the Navy first : in December, as a result of an Allied Conference 
in Paris, an important step was taken by the creation of an Allied 
Naval Council, consisting of the various Ministers of Marine and 
Chiefs of the Naval Staffs, and provided with a permanent secre- 
tariat. On the 27th of that month it w'as announced that the 
First Sea Lord, Sir John Jellicoe, had retired, and that he was to 
be succeeded by Sir Rosslyn Wemyss, who had been acting since 
August as Deputy First Sea Lord. Of Admiral Wemyss's com- 
petence as a successor there was no question, but the cavalier treat- 
ment of the sailor to whom the country owed everything for the 
long vigil of the first two years of war brought upon the Prime 
Minister and Sir Eric Geddes, the First Lord of Admiralty, the 
censure of all lovers of fair dealing. Otherwise the naval situa- 
tion had greatly bettered itself. In the beginning of February 
1918 the First Lord, reviewing the result of twelve months of the 
unrestricted German submarine campaign, declared that in his 
opinion the danger had been met. The sinking of merchant ships 
had now been reduced to a lower level than before the German 
intensive campaign began, and this was not due to any decrease 
in the number of ships sailing. Merchant ships, too, were being 
built at a higher rate than in the best pre-war year, and it was 
hoped during 191 8 to double that record year. 

* To gain some idea of the immense size of its transactions, take these items 
of goods manufactured by order of the Department — 62 million pairs of boots, 
130 million yards of serge and tartan, 276 million yards of flannel, 164 million 
pairs of socks, and 1,200 million sandbags. 



I9i8] THE AIR RAIDS ON ENGLAND 169 

The campaign in the air had produced one novel feature. The 
Zeppelin legend had been destroyed during 1916 ; but when on 
the 28th of November of that year an enemy airplane had visited 
London in the daytime and dropped bombs, it seemed probable 
that a new menace from the heavens might replace the old. In 
the summer of 191 7 the Germans, having perfected in their Gotha 
type a heavy bomb-carrying machine, inaugurated a series of air 
raids on England. In June they came by day, and, taking us by 
surprise, did considerable damage. Presently we organized our 
defences, so that daylight raids became dangerous for the raiders ; 
but the first moonlight of August saw the beginning of hostile 
night attacks which lasted throughout the winter. Generally 
the enemy chose the full moon, both for the purpose of finding his 
way and because bright moonlight is in itself a screen ; but on at 
least two occasions he came when the moon was in its first or last 
quarter, and once he chose a moonless, starry night. At first he 
succeeded easily in penetrating the London defences; but soon 
the various zones of barrage became effective, and at the most one 
or two machines visited the capital. Bombs were dropped in every 
quarter of London, and rich districts suffered alike with poor. 
Comparatively little damage was done either to property or life ; 
but the normal existence of the Londoner was disarranged, and 
elaborate provision had to be made for shelter during raids for the 
poorer classes who lived in flimsy buildings. The people of south- 
eastern England behaved admirably under this menace, scarcely 
permitting it to disturb the tenor of their life. There was no 
clamour to bring back machines for defence which were needed at 
the fighting fronts, and the enemy designs on British moral most 
signally failed. Meantime the old Royal Flying Corps and Royal 
Naval Air Service were united in one service known as the Royal 
Air Force, and an Air Ministry was established in November by Act 
of Parliament under a Secretary of State. The change was over- 
due, for the Air Services were getting into administrative confu- 
sion, and there had never been that efficiency in their home organi- 
zation which had characterized their work in the field. Moreover 
the home side was losing caste, and becoming the refuge of the 
emhusque and the arriviste and the dregs of conscripted manhood. 
There was need of vigorous action if a great tradition were not to 
be fatally degraded, and a vital service impaired by weakness at 
the top. The first Air Minister, Lord Rothermere, was so unfor- 
tunate as to differ seriously from his technical advisers, and before 
he resigned himself had brought about the resignation of Sir Hugh 



170 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Jan. 

Trenchard, the Chief of the Air Staff, and Sir David Henderson, 
the creator of the service. >, 

But it was on the Army that public attention was concentrated, 
and the critics of the Government found there their chief topic. 
The heavy casualty lists of Third Ypres, the crisis of Caporetto, 
the failure of hopes raised high by the first stage of Cambrai, were 
some excuse for those who doubted whether all was well with our 
military direction. It said much for the people of Britain that but 
little popular complaint was made against the chiefs of the Army 
themselves. There were the usual criticisms of the staff ; but what 
staff in what war has ever escaped them ? There was some mur- 
mur that the New Army and the Territorial Force were unfairly 
treated in the matter of promotion as compared with the old regu- 
lars. There were the stock tirades against elderly generals, not 
infrequently made by the coevals of these generals. In such com- 
plaints there was little substance. The British Army, as regarded 
commanders and staff officers, was the youngest in Europe ; of 
the twenty members of the Intelligence section at General Head- 
quarters nine were New Army and Territorial officers ; an ex- 
civilian was chief staff officer of the Guards Division. But by far 
the commonest criticism was that the politicians were overriding 
the soldiers and sailors. The latter were popular ; the former 
never had been and never would be popular in Britain. The plain 
man was anxious about certain appointments ; he did not quite 
see why a newspaper proprietor should be Air Minister and a rail- 
way manager First Sea Lord ; he was disturbed by the dismissal 
of Sir John Jellicoe ; he was disquieted by constant rumours of 
intrigues against Sir Douglas Haig and Sir William Robertson. 
In any controversy he was vaguely on the side of the fighting men ; 
and his instinct did him honour, for the soldiers and sailors can 
rarely defend themselves, and the politicians have the stating of 
the case. 

The urgent question was that of the unity of command, and to 
understand this complicated matter it is necessary to note the 
stages of the controversy. From the first months of war the lack 
of some central coordination between the Allies had weighed on 
the minds of both soldiers and statesmen. France had proposed 
a Supreme War Council with executive powers over armies and 
fleets, but to this Kitchener was opposed, since he did not believe 
in the syndicating of command in the field. During 1915 the 
modus operandi was periodic conferences, like that in July at 
Chantilly which arranged the Champagne-Loos offensive, and that' 



I9i8] THE VERSAILLES COUNCIL 171 

in December of the same year which made the original plans for 
the Battle of the Somme. In 1916 there were conferences in 
March and November, and then with the appointment of Nivelle 
as the French Generalissimo the whole question changed its char- 
acter. For a few weeks the Allied command in the West was uni- 
fied in his hands, but his failure discredited the plan, and the two 
commands drew apart again. But the breakdown of Russia, and 
the certainty that Germany would soon move great masses of 
troops to the West, made it impossible to let the matter sleep. In 
June 191 7 there was a conference in Paris of French and British 
soldiers, and it was proposed to set up an inter-Allied staff ; but 
again the question dropped during the stress of the Flanders bat- 
tle. Then came Caporetto, and the thing could be no longer post- 
poned. The Conference of Rapallo on 7th November decided on 
the creation of a Supreme War Council to sit at Versailles — a 
scheme which Sir Henry Wilson had suggested a month before to 
Mr. Lloyd George. The Council was to consist of the Prime 
Minister and one other Minister of Cabinet rank from each of the 
Allies, with a permanent secretariat on the analogy of the British 
War Cabinet, and its duty was the co-ordination of national poli- 
cies. The military side was represented by four permanent mili- 
tary delegates from France, Britain, Italy, and the United States, 
who attended meetings of the Council, but were not members and 
had no votes. This military committee was without executive 
powers, and all final decisions as to movements and strategy re- 
mained with the Cabinets concerned. Its business, as Mr. Lloyd 
George explained on 14th November in the House of Commons, 
was to help to co-ordinate military action by watching over the 
general conduct of the war, by preparing recommendations for 
the various Governments, and by keeping itself informed of their 
execution. 

The Supreme War Council was therefore in the main a political 
body, and as such was a vast improvement on the old occasional 
conference. From it sprang united action in matters of shipping 
and transport, food and munitions, which did incalculable service 
to the Allied cause. But at present we are concerned with its 
weak point — the military arrangements, which in no way solved 
the problem and which unfortunately created a new difficulty. 
There are two ways in which allies can make war together. The 
commanders-in-chief may collaborate by sharing counsels and at 
prior conferences reaching an agreement on future operations — ■ 
the plan hitherto followed by France and Britain; or an inde- 



172 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Jan. 

pendent generalissmo may be appointed, to whom the various com- 
manders-in-chief are subordinate. There are two ways in which 
the thing cannot be done : by the putting of the army of one ally 
under the authority of the commander-in-chief of another, who 
has his own men to think of and is primarily responsible to his own 
government ; and by a committee which has executive control 
over certain aspects of the fighting and not over others. The 
first of these had been tried in the case of Nivelle and had griev- 
ously failed ; the second was now to be essayed. In the agreement 
establishing the Supreme Council there had been a clause intro- 
duced by Britain, which foreshadowed some such development, 
providing that the military representatives should be empowered 
to advise their governments independently of the General Staffs — 
a dangerous approach to dual control. 

Clearly the military committee established at Rapallo was very 
far from the true unity of command that was required. By its 
constitution Chiefs of the General Staffs were excluded, and though 
Weygand, Foch's principal assistant, for France, Cadorna for 
Italy, Sir Henry Wilson for Britain, and General Bliss for America 
were a most respectable body, with direct access to the various 
Cabinets, they had not the authority of tjie men actually engaged 
in directing the war. In Mr. Lloyd George's speech in Paris on 
I2th November, in which he denounced patchwork strategy, had 
been a plea for a unified executive authority, which should decide 
upon the whole Allied strategy, and have at its disposal the whole 
Allied reserves. Soldiers both in France and Britain at the time 
were clear that the only solution was an independent generalissimo, 
but Mr, Lloyd George had expressly ruled out this expedient. "I 
am utterly opposed to that suggestion," he told the House of Com- 
mons. "It would not work. It would produce real friction, and 
might produce not merely friction between the armies, but fric- 
tion between the nation and the Government."* 

The British Prime Minister's revised scheme was revealed at 
the meeting of the Supreme War Council at Versailles on January 
30, 191 8. By this time the German plans for the early spring 
were fairly clear, the American armies could not be looked for in 
strength till the autumn, and provision had to be made for a de- 
fensive battle against equal or possibly superior numbers. It was 
decided to create a general reserve of thirty divisions, and to en- 
trust it to a Committee, with Foch, representing France, at its 
head, whose other members would be the permanent military rep- 
* Parliamentary Debates, Fifth Series, Vol. XCIX., p. 896. 



I9i8] RESIGNATION OF SIR W. ROBERTSON 173 

resentatives of Britain, Italy, and the United States. At the 
same time Mr. Lloyd George proposed a vigorous British offensive 
in Palestine. This latter plan, which was not approved of by 
Foch and Clemenceau, was based on a strange misapprehension of 
the gravity of the German menace and the value of successes in 
Asiatic Turkey. The day had passed when victory could be won, 
or even materially expedited, elsewhere than on the Western front. 
At a moment when Hindenburg was withdrawing his troops from 
Bulgaria and Turkey to weight his blow in the West, it was folly 
for Britain to extend instead of curtailing her side-shows — the 
more as she had no superfluity of shipping, and the amount re- 
quired to maintain troops in the Near East was six times greater 
than for an equivalent number in France. As for the Executive 
Committee, it is not easy to see how it could have escaped disas- 
ter. The same authority that controls the general operations 
must control reserves, and a committee cannot with success com- 
mand an army — these are elementary principles of the science of 
war. But the experiment was never tried ; it shipwrecked upon 
Sir Douglas Haig, who, when asked to allocate divisions to the 
reserve, was compelled to refuse, since he had none to give.' 

Sir William Robertson was of opinion that the Chief of the Im- 
perial General Staff should be the British representative on the 
Committee, and, since he could not always attend in person, 
should be permanently represented by a deputy. The Prime 
Minister thought otherwise ; he wished wholly to separate the 
functions of the two posts ; and Sir William Robertson was offered 
his choice between them. Holding the arrangement to be vicious 
in principle, he could not see his way to accept either, so on i6th 
February he resigned. He was succeeded as Chief of the Imperial 
General Staff by Sir Henry Wilson, who had been Deputy Chief 
of Staff to Sir John French in the beginning of the war, had after- 
wards commanded a corps, and had held various liaison posts 
with the French army. Sir Henry Wilson's political sympathies 
had not endeared him to the old Liberal Government, and he had 
therefore missed till thus late in the day the high and responsible 
employment which was the due of his great ability. For his re- 
markable natural gifts were not excelled in the British army ; his 
experience was wide, his mind quick and resourceful, his courage 
conspicuous ; especially he was an intimate friend of Foch and 
much trusted by the French Staff — a happy augury for the new 
co-operation. The Prime Minister and Sir William Robertson 
were men of incompatible temperaments, and their collaboration 



174 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Feb. 

was perpetually hindered by mutual suspicion. Sir Henry Wil- 
son, on the other hand, was a man whom Mr. Lloyd George under- 
stood and valued, for he had many qualities akin to his own — un- 
flagging optimism, for one thing, and a talent for explicit state- 
ment rare among tongue-tied soldiers. Both had a gift of 
making a situation seem clearer than in fact it was, and 
both lacked powers of judgment commensurate with their 
imaginative intuitions. In one respect the appointment was 
fortunate for the army ; the new Chief of the Imperial General 
Staff could hold his own in debate with any politician, and the 
British forces in the field had in him a representative who, if 
he was sometimes in error, was always both able and willing to 
defend their cause. 

Sir William Robertson had for two years laboured incessantly, 
and, after Kitchener, to him the creation of the new British army 
was mainly due. He will rank among the greater figures of the 
war, and no man earned more wholly the respect of his country- 
men. His very limitations were an advantage to his popular 
repute, for they seemed to be added proofs of honesty. The de- 
parture of one whose massive figure had become a popular insti- 
tution" raised again the cry of "soldiers Versus politicians;" and 
by a curious irony the extreme militarist theories were put forward 
chiefly by semi-pacificist newspapers. Undoubtedly the Prime 
Minister had given ground for distrust by the method of some of 
his appointments, which savoured of intrigue ; and certain aspects 
of his policy — notably his slowness in handling the vital problem 
of man-power and his retention of too many trained divisions at 
home — had exasperated with good reason the much-tried High 
Command. On the question of the Versailles Executive he was 
most certainly in the wrong, and Sir William Robertson in the 
right. His Palestine scheme was only prevented by accident 
from proving a dangerous folly. But on the general issue there 
was something to be said in his behalf. In a democratic country 
the relations between soldiers and statesmen must always be 
delicate, and it may fairly be argued that they were less strained 
in Britain than in either France or Italy. The War Cabinet had 
not interfered with Haig as Jefferson Davis interfered with Lee be- 
fore Fredericksburg, or as Lincoln, with more reason, interfered 
with every Northern general save Grant. In a democracy it is 
the civilian government which has the ultimate responsibility, 
which has to take into account a thousand matters outside the 
knowledge of the soldiers, and which, therefore, must decide on 



I9i8] SOLDIERS VS. POLITICIANS 175 

everything but technical details.* A wise government will trust 
its generals, or get rid of them ; a wise commander-in-chief will 
take the view expressed by Lee in a famous letter to Davis. f Mr. 
Lloyd George was in the main justified in the claim which he made 
in his speech of November 19, 1917: "No soldiers in any war 
have had their strategical dispositions less interfered with by poli- 
ticians. There has not been a single battalion, or a single gun, 
moved this year, except on the advice of the General Staff. There 
has not been a single attack ordered in any part of the battlefield 
by British troops, except on the advice of the General Staff. The 
whole campaign of the year has been the result of the advice of 
soldiers. Never in the whole history of war in this country have 
soldiers got more consistent and more substantial backing from 
politicians than they have had this year." 

On the particular matters discussed in February 191 8 he was 
in the wrong : wrong as to the Versailles machinery and the intro- 
duction of a dual authority ; wrong in his anticipation of Germany's 
plans ; wrong in his treatment of the British army in France and 
in the impossible task which he laid upon Haig. But for one of 
his temperament there were excuses to be made. He saw the 
danger of disunion and proposed a remedy ; it was a bad one, but 
the soldiers contented themselves with criticizing. If on 1st Feb- 
ruary Robertson and Haig had demanded a generalissimo, being 
convinced that such was the right solution, and had proposed 
Foch, they would probably have carried their point, in spite of 
the Prime Minister's declaration of the preceding November. He 
might fairly have complained that he did not get sufficient help 
from his military advisers in the solution of his problems, and he 
turned naturally to the fertile, if occasionally fantastic, mind of 
Sir Henry Wilson. The Prime Minister, again, was flagrantly' 
unjust to the Somme achievement, but he was right in his instinct 
that the day was past for hammer tactics and in his craving for 
more finesse and resource in the Allied plan. 

Of another change made a little later no criticism was possible. 
The office of Secretary of State for War existed in order to har- 
monize the relations of civilian statesmen and military experts. 

* Cf. Sir William Robertson : "I used to estimate that of the total effort of 
which the nation was capable only 25 per cent, was purely military, the re- 
maining 75 per cent, being of a non-military nature ; and when asked sometimes 
what our chances of winning were, I would reply, 'Why ask me, with my 25 per 
cent. ? Ask those who manipulate the 75, ' " — From Private to Field- Marshal, 
p. 321. 

t Official Records of the Union and Confederate Annies, Vol. CVIII., p. 752. 



176 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [April 

It had been since December 191 6 in the charge of Lord Derby, 
but on April 18, 1918, he succeeded Lord Bertie at the Embassy 
in France, and Lord Milner went to the War Office. There was 
need of such a man in such a place, for a month before the storm 
had broken in the West, the Allies had lost their gains of four 
laborious years, and the Channel Ports and Paris herself seemed to 
lie at the mercy of the enemy. The British Commander-in-Chief 
had told his men that their backs were at the wall, and that each 
must fight to the end ; and Sir Douglas Haig was not prone to 
emotional speech. We turn now to that struggle of life and death 
between the Gise and the sea. 



CHAPTER XCII 

THE SOMME RETREAT 
March 21- April 5, 191 8 

The Position at the Beginning of 1918 — The War on a Single Front — Luden- 
dorff's Scheme — The New German Tactics — German Dispositions — 
British Dispositions — The British Fifth Army — The Attack of 21st March 

— British Battle Zone pierced — Retreat of Fifth Army — TheSomme Line 
relinquished — German Failure at Arras — Loss of P^ronne and Bapaume 

— Desperate Position of Fifth Army — Foch appointed Generalissimo — 
Fight for Amiens — Second Failure at Arras — The Enemy stayed on the 
Somme — Close of Battle — Reactions in Britain — Summary of Battle — 
The True Responsibility. 

In the year 1809 Napoleon, having laid Austria prostrate, had the 
Continent of Europe at his mercy. Only Britain, outnumbered 
in fighting strength by five to one, maintained the contest. The 
great Emperor, freed from other needs, was able to turn his superb 
armies against that south-western angle of land which still defied 
him, and in 1810 Massena's veteran troops swept through Spain 
and Portugal. Wellington had little to comfort him except the 
conviction that the Napoleonic Empire was rotten at the heart, 
"sustained by fraud, bad faith, and immeasurable extortion." He 
could not foresee that the next five years would be the years of 
Borodino, Leipzig, and Waterloo. Similar in some degree was the 
case of the Allies towards the close of March 1918. They had to 
face the onslaught of a mighty engine of war whose strength could 
now be directed to a single front. Inferior in numbers, inferior too 
in certain more vital elements of military power, they were doomed 
to see all their hard-won gains obliterated and to struggle desper- 
ately for time to recruit their strength. In 1810 Britain had been 
fighting for nearly two decades; in March 1918 the Allies had 
endured forty-three months of a far intenser strife. But as their 
need was the sharper, so was their relief the quicker. Wellington 

177 



178 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Feb. 

had to wait four years for salvation ; in four months the Allies 
had repelled the peril and set their feet at long last on the road to 
victory. 

At the end of February 191 8 the Eastern front had gone out of 
existence. Russia, disjointed and anarchical, lay helpless in the 
grip of harsh treaties, and Germany was able to bring westward 
sufficient troops to abolish the small Allied numerical superiority. 
Already she exceeded their numbers, and she could at will call up a 
further reinforcement which would give her a margin of more 
than a quarter of a million men. On the Allied side there was 
no chance of such immediate increment. The American forces 
were slowly growing, but at the normal rate of increase several 
months must still elapse before they could add materially to the 
trained numbers in the field, and it would be the autumn at least 
before they could form separate armies. France could make no 
new effort ; indeed, her man-power was not far from exhaustion, 
and she could no longer keep her units at full strength. During 
the winter she had broken up more than one hundred battalions. 
There had been as yet no adequate recruitment from Britain to 
fill the gaps left by Third Ypres and Cambrai. The difficulty about 
drafts had been felt in 1917, in which year 380,000 fewer men were 
taken into the army than in 1916. By March 1918 Haig's infantry 
strength was less by 180,000 than on the same date the previous 
year. The mind of the Allies had become resigned to a defensive 
campaign for the spring, till America took her true place In the line, 
and it was assumed that the task would not be beyond their power. 
They believed that they would have to face a superiority of num- 
bers ; but they had faced greater odds at First Ypres and Verdun, 
and held their ground. Let the enemy attack and break his head 
against their iron barriers ; he would only be the weaker when the 
time came for their final advance. Such was the common civilian 
view In France and Britain. 

Far other was the mood of the German High Command. Some- 
time in February Ludendorff and Hindenburg met the Reichstag 
in secret session and explained their plan. They promised victory, 
complete and absolute victory in the field, before the autumn. 
The submarine campaign had not done all that had been expected 
■ of it, and it appeared that American troops could land in Europe. 
But they must come slowly, and during the next six months the 
Allies would have to fight their own battle. Now, if ever, was the 
hour to strike. German diplomacy and the German sword had 



I9i8] LUDENDORFF'S GREAT PLAN 179 

brought peace in the East, and in a little the same sword would 
lay prostrate the West. America's armies, when they arrived, 
would find no Allies to stand by the side of, and that great nation, 
bowing to accomplished fact, would see the good sense of coming to 
terms ; for clearly by herself she could not fight Germany across 
three thousand miles of sea. But a price must be paid for such a 
triumph. The Army chiefs put it at a million German losses ; 
on reconsideration, they increased their estimate to a million and a 
half. On 13th February Ludendorff told the Emperor at Hom- 
burg that "the coming battle was the greatest military task ever 
imposed upon an army, and could only be accomplished if the 
very last man was employed in the decisive conflict." 

The Reichstag blessed the enterprise. The news of it spread 
among the German people, and a wave of new confidence surged 
across Central Europe. German diplomats in neutral countries 
raised their drooping heads, and the speeches of German statesmen 
took on a certain truculence. On i6th March, five days before the 
attack was launched, HelfTerich delivered a lecture on "Germany 
and England." He told his hearers that the war would be decided 
not in distant parts of the globe, but on the battlefields of France. 
Where is Hindenburg? he asked. "He stands in the West with 
our whole German manhood for the first time united in a single 
theatre of war, ready to strike with the strongest army that the 
world has ever known." 

To understand the mighty battle which followed it is necessary 
to examine in some detail the German plan. Let us consider first 
its general principles. Ludendorff's aim was to secure a decision 
in the field within four months. To achieve this he proposed to 
isolate the British army, by rolling it up from its right and driving 
it into the sea or pinning it to an entrenched camp between the 
Somme and the Channel — a Torres Vedras from which it would 
emerge only on the signature of peace. This done, he could hold 
it with few troops, swing round on the French, and put them out 
of action.* His first step, therefore — which was known as the 
"Michael offensive" — must be to strike with all his might at the 
point of junction of Haig and P6tain. He assumed with some 

* The first inception of the scheme seems to have been in the end of October 
191 7. At a conference at Mons on nth November three areas of attack 
were discussed — between Armenti^res and La Bass^e ; on either side of Ver- 
dun ; and between Arras and the Oise. Ludendorff decided on the last, and 
on 17th December he ordered Hutier's XVIIL Army — the shock army — to 
the St. Ouentin sector. See the study by an anonymous staff officer, Kritik 
des Welikrieges, 1921 ; and Otto Fehr's Die Mdrzoffensiv, igi8, 1921. 



i8o A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Feb. 

justice that it would be a weak point, and that, since his plan would 
not be realized by his opponents and they had no unified field 
command, there was certain to be fumbling at the start. He 
saw that what he would do he must do quickly. "Time's winged 
chariot" would not wait for him. The German High Command 
did not at the time believe seriously in the Americans, for they 
reckoned that their arrival would be slow and their training im- 
perfect ; but it was the part of wisdom to take no risks. Moreover, 
the happy anarchy of Russia might not continue for ever. 

Such being the great principles of his plan, what advantages 
could he command in its execution ? The first was his powerful 
army. He had withdrawn six German divisions from Italy and 
several from the Balkans ; he had ready for use half of the 1920 
class of new recruits ; and he had brought some half-million men 
from the East. What with captures from Italy and Russia, and 
those released from the Eastern front, he had an enormous con- 
centration of guns, and he borrowed from Austria a quantity of 
batteries. At the beginning of the battle in total numbers he 
would slightly exceed the Allies ; soon he would have a considerable 
superiority ; and from the outset, served by his admirable railways, 
he had the power of achieving a great local predominance, since the 
most intricate railway network of France was inside the German 
front. In the second place, his position on interior lines gave him 
the possibility of strategic surprise. He could concentrate at some 
point in the angle of the huge salient running from the sea to La 
Fere, and from La F^re to Verdun. The Allies would, of course, 
be aware of this concentration ; but till the actual attack they 
would not know on which side of the salient the blow was to fall. 
His dispositions would threaten the French in Champagne as much 
as the British before St. Quentin. Finally, the nature of the ground 
behind the British lines seemed to have been devised for his pur- 
pose. His aim was to roll up the British right, and in the process 
he would have the valley of the Gise as a defence against French 
flank attacks, at any rate for the first stage. Wheeling northward, 
he would then drive Haig beyond the Somme, and thereby pin 
him to an enclosure, while his main effort turned against Petain. 
In its essence it was the familiar plan of a break in a line sufficiently 
wide to allow the two halves to be driven in from the centre. But 
the configuration of the battle-ground permitted the operation to 
be carried out in two stages. The rolling up of the British could 
be completed before the French came to their aid, and the British 
would be out of action before the attack developed on the French 



I9I8] THE DETAILS OF THE SCHEME i8i 

half. Only, it must be done speedily and completely ; there was 
no great margin of time in such a programme. 

The German habit, inherited from Moltke, was to decide upon a 
general strategic plan, towards which they marched undeviatingly, 
but to allow a wide latitude for the choice of particular objectives 
once they were in touch with the enemy. Ludendorff had therefore 
a single purpose — to split the Allied forces, hem in the British, 
and defeat the French ; and this was to be effected by breaking 
the British right centre. But he was prepared to let circumstances 
decide for him the best methods of securing his aim as the battle 
developed. Hence it was an injustice to the German High Com- 
mand to say that they struck for Amiens or Paris or the Channel 
Ports. They struck for something far greater and more decisive 
than any geographical point. As the struggle went on, they 
seemed to be diverted towards minor objectives, but these were 
always subsidiary to their main purpose. Nor did they in fact 
relinquish that purpose till they were wholly out-manoeuvred and 
defeated. 

We may now set down the detailed scheme of the first step. Out 
of 192 German divisions in the West, more than half were con- 
centrated against the British. The actual front of attack was from 
Croisilles, on the Sensee, to Vendeuil, on the Oise, a distance of 
over fifty miles. Against this line Ludendorff proposed to launch 
thirty-seven divisions — more than half a million men — as the first 
wave, to be followed by fresh troops in an endless wheel. It is 
clear from the way in which he disposed his forces that he believed 
he had detected certain weak sections on the British front. One 
was the two re-entrants of the salient at Flesquieres, which had 
been left by the Battle of Cambrai ; another was just north of St. 
Quentin, where the low hill of Holnon dominates the little valley 
of the Omignon ; a third was between St. Quentin and the Oise 
at the ridge of Essigny, east of the Crozat Canal. At such points 
a reasonable advance would mean the capture of important tactical 
positions. He hoped by the end of the first day to have driven the 
British behind the upper Somme, and as a consequence, on the 
second day, to compel a general retreat of the whole line. On the 
third day he had arranged for a great attack upon the British 
pivot at Arras. Success there would mean complete disaster to 
the British right wing, and a disorderly retirement westward 
towards Amiens and the sea. Long before the French reserves, 
hastily brought from Champagne, could appear on the scene, he 
hoped to have cut all communication with the north and be facing 



i82 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Feb. 

southward to take order with P^tain. His plan was, therefore, to 
win a series of tactical successes at once, which would presently 
open the road to a strategic victory. Of his three armies of assault 
the task of that on the left was purely tactical — to cut the coupling 
between Haig and Petain ; the centre and the right-hand armies 
had to make a break north of the Somme so as to command the 
river from Peronne to Abbeville, and then, wheeling north, to effect 
the major purpose. 

The conception was bold and spacious, and based on sound 
principles of the military art. Apart from the strategic advantages 
we have referred to, Germany relied for success upon new tactics 
which, as we have seen, Hutier had first experimented with at 
Riga, and Otto von Below and Marwitz had proved at Caporetto 
and Cambrai. The history of the war was the history of new 
tactical methods devised to break the strength of an entrenched 
defence. To recapitulate a tale which was the leitmotiv of the 
whole campaign — Neuve Chapelle saw the first attempt at the use 
of artillery to prepare the way for an infantry wedge, and Festubert 
and the French attack in the Artois saw the failure of the method. 
Three months later Loos and Champagne witnessed the device of 
the broad breach, which was defeated by the depth of the German 
defences. Then came the Somme and the doctrine of "limited 
objectives," combined with a creeping barrage, a method which was 
sure in its result but slow and laborious in its working, and which 
could only achieve a decision against an enemy whose power of 
recruitment was shrinking. The defection of Russia altered the 
case, and the gradual pulverization of Germany's fighting strength 
became a futile aim in view of the fresh reserves of troops at her 
command. Cambrai had shown the dawn of new tactics, the 
tactics of surprise, and the mind of the Allied Command was work- 
ing towards their development. But Germany was beforehand. 
Her problem was to discover tactics which would restore open 
warfare, and give the chance of an early decision ; and she deserves 
all credit for a brilliant departure from routine, a true intellectual 
efifort to re-think the main problem of modern war. And her 
credit is the greater inasmuch as she contrived to keep it secret, 
and, in spite of Caporetto and Cambrai, the Allied Staffs, until 
the battle was joined, had no accurate knowledge of her plan. 

What that plan was may be briefly sketched. It was based 
primarily upon the highly specialized training of certain units, 
and may be described as the system of shock troops carried to its 
extreme conclusion. In practice it usually involved local superiority 



I9i8] THE TACTICS OF INFILTRATION 183 

of numbers, even a crushing superiority, but such was not its 
essence, and it was meant to succeed even when the enemy was in 
stronger force. * The first point was the absence of any preliminary 
massing of troops near the front of attack. Divisions were brought 
up by night marches only just before zero hour, and secrecy was 
thus obtained for the assembly. In the second place, there was 
no long artillery "preparation" to alarm the enemy. The attack 
was preceded by a short and intense bombardment, and the enemy's 
back areas and support lines were confused by a deluge of gas 
shells. The assault was made by picked troops, in open order, or 
rather in small clusters, carrying light trench mortars and many 
machine guns, with the field batteries close behind them in support. 
The actual method of attack, which the French called "infiltra- 
tion," may best be set forth by the analogy of a hand whose finger 
tips are shod with steel, pushing its way into a soft substance. The 
picked troops at the fingers' ends made gaps through which others 
poured, till each section of the defence found itself outflanked and 
encircled. A system of flares and rockets enabled the following 
troops to learn where the picked troops had made the breach, 
and the artillery came close behind the infantry. The troops had 
unlimited objectives, and carried iron rations for several days. 
When one division had reached the end of its strength another 
took its place, so that the advance resembled an endless wheel or 
a continuous game of leap-frog. 

This method, it will be seen, was the very opposite of the old 
German massed attack, or a series of hammer blows on one section 
of front. It was strictly the filtering of a great army into a 
hostile position, so that each part was turned and the whole front 
was first dislocated and then crumbled. The crumbling might be 
achieved by inferior numbers ; the value of the German numerical 
superiority was to ensure a complete victory by pushing far behind 
into unprotected areas. Advance was to be measured not by a 
few kilometres but by many miles, and in any case was to proceed 
far enough to capture the enemy's artillery positions. Obviously 
the effect would be cumulative, the momentum of the attack would 
grow, and, if it were not stopped in the battle zone, it would be far 
harder to stop in the hinterland. It was no case of a sudden stroke, 
but of a creeping sickness which might demoralize a hundred miles 
of front. Ludendorff's confidence was not ill founded, for to sup- 

* For example, at the Third Battle of the Aisne the ist Guard Division 
successfully engaged within three days seven French divisions, and another 
German division at the battle of 9th June defeated three French divisions. 



i84 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Feb. 

port his strategical plan he had tactics which must come with 
deadly effect upon an enemy prepared only to meet the old methods. 
Their one drawback was that they involved the highest possible 
training and discipline. Every detail — the preliminary assembly, 
the attack, the supply and relief system during battle— presupposed 
a perfect mechanism, and great initiative and resource in sub- 
ordinate commanders. The German army had now been definitely 
divided into special groups of the best quality, and a conspicuously 
inferior rank and file. Unless decisive success came at once, the 
tactics might remain, but the men to use them would have gone. 
A protracted battle would destroy the corps d'elite, and without 
that the tactics were futile.* 

The German High Command, as was its custom before a great 
offensive, had created new armies. Their dispositions on the 
2ist March in the battle area were as follows : — From Arras south- 
ward lay the new XVII. Army (formerly the XIV. Army in Italy) 
under Otto von Below, the hero of Caporetto, with five corps, 
comprising twenty-three divisions. On his left, from Cambrai to 
just north of St. Quentin, with exactly the same strength, lay the 
II. Army of Marwitz, who had been in command during the battle 
of Cambrai. South of it, extending to the Oise, was the new XVIII. 
Army (of which the nucleus came from Woyrsch's group in the 
East) under Hutier, with four corps, embracing twenty-three or 
twenty-four divisions. Beyond lay Boehn's VII. Army, the right 
wing of which was to be drawn into the contest. All the divisions 
intended for the battle were taken out of the line in January and 
February for special training. Of the corps commanders, some, 
like Fasbender and Conta, were old antagonists, but the majority 
were new men in the West, who had learned their trade in Eastern 
battles. Hutier himself was of this school. Before the war he 
had commanded the ist Guard Division ; but in the present cam- 
paign he had done all his work in Russia, and, at the head of the 
German VIII. Army, had taken Riga. It was fitting that one of 
the men chiefly responsible for the new tactics should be present 
to direct their final test. Otto von Below was another of their 
begetters. He had first won fame at Tannenberg in August 1914, 

* Ludendorff has expounded the new doctrine in his My War Memories 
(Eng. trans.), H-, PP- 573-582. A good statement of the main principles, 
which are now generally adopted, will be found in four lectures by Captain 
Liddell Hart at the Royal United Services Institution, reprinted under the 
title of The Framework of a Science of Infantry Tactics (Rees, 192 1). Captain 
Hart's key-metaphor is " the expanding torrent." 



I9i8] DIFFICULTIES OF THE ALLIES 185 

and had thereafter commanded for two years the German VIII. 
Army on the left flank in the East. In November 191 6 he took 
over the German forces in Macedonia, and distinguished himself 
greatly in the fighting at Monastir. In April 191 7 he replaced 
Falkenhausen in command of the German VI. Army after the loss 
of Vimy ridge, and in September of the same year was put in charge 
of the new XIV. Army for the attack on Italy. There he remained 
until January 1918, when he joined the XVII. Army in France.* 

One special feature was to be noted in the German dispositions. 
The great stroke was designed not only to give Germany victory, 
but to revive the waning prestige of the royal house. So soon as 
the battle began it was announced that the Emperor himself was 
in direct command. The armies of Otto von Below and Marwitz 
were included in the group of Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, but 
Hutier's army was in the group of the Imperial Crown Prince. It 
was a Kaiser schlacht, this blow which was to open the path to a 
"German peace." There was also a more practical reason for the 
arrangement. Ludendorff could exercise a closer control if the 
front of assault were divided between two groups than if one group- 
commander were in charge of the whole operation. 

The position of the Allies in the face of such a threat was full 
of embarrassment. They were aware of what was coming, f and 
in view of their past record they were confident that they could 
beat off any German assault, even though it were made with a 
considerable superiority of numbers. But the enemy concentra- 
tion in the angle of the great salient made it impossible for them to 
decide till the last moment against which section the attack would 
be delivered. The Germans took some pains to threaten the 
Champagne front and the Ypres area. Petain, not unnaturally, 
was anxious about his position on the Aisne — which was, after all, 
for the enemy the shortest cut to victory ; he feared, too, an attack 
through Switzerland by way of Belfort ; and, since he held the 
exterior lines, any reinforcement of one part from another would 
be a matter of days. The difficulties of the British Command were 
still greater. Haig had not received from home the numbers for 
which he had so often pleaded, and he had been compelled greatly 
to extend the length of his front. Up to January 191 8 the right 
wing of the British had been Byng's Third Army. Before the 

* The Below family is confusing. From Otto must be distinguished Fritz, 
who now commanded the I. Army in Champagne, and Eduard, who commanded 
the 5th Corps. 

t Haig had begun to work on the supposition of an attack in the P&onne 
area as early as November 1917- 



i86 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Feb. 

middle of the month, however, the Third Army was moved farther 
north, and the post on its right taken by Cough's Fifth Army 
from the Ypres area, which replaced the French in front of St. 
Quentin.* About the 20th of January the Fifth Army extended 
its right as far south as the village of Barisis, on the left bank of 
the Gise, thus making itself responsible for a line of 72,000 yards, 
or nearly forty-one miles. The position was, therefore, that Britain 
now held 130 miles of line, and these the most critical in the West, 
with approximately the same numbers as she possessed two years 
before, when her front was only eighty miles long and Russia was 
still in the field. 

Clearly this was a wildly dangerous extension for a weak force 
in an area which was one of the two possible objects of the coming 
enemy attack. The problem made Haig acutely uneasy. The Ex- 
ecutive Committee at Versailles could give no help ; its scheme 
of a pool of thirty divisions under Foch had failed, for, apart 
from its inherent unworkableness, the British Commander-in-Chief 
had no reserves to contribute. So it was provisionally arranged 
between Haig and P6tain that, in event of the western side of 
the salient becoming the principal battle-ground, the British re- 
serves would be held mainly at the disposal of Byng's Third Army, 
while the French army south of the Gise would extend its left to 
assist Cough. Such a plan had obviously many drawbacks, but it 
was difficult for Haig to make a better, since the British Govern- 
ment, still dreaming of Palestine, would not realize the gravity of the 
crisis and increase his numbers, and Petain could not be persuaded 
that the enemy threat was against the British right. To add to 
Haig's difficulties, he had to train his troops for the new defensive 
warfare, and the transition from offence to defence is one of the 
most critical tasks which a general can face. He had also to adapt 
his army to the new grouping of units under which divisions were 
changed from a thirteen-battalion to a ten-battalion basis — an 
unfortunate step to take under the threat of attack, since it involved 
an alteration in divisional and brigade machinery, but one rendered 
inevitable by the impossibility of receiving adequate drafts from 
home. Moreover, he had to prepare defences and communications 
in areas recently won from the enemy, and comprehensively scarred 
by battle. 

His strategical problem, too, was intricate. He had to face an 

* This decision had been arrived at by the British and French Governments 
at Boulogne on September 25, 19 17, but the discussion of the details occupied 
the whole winter. Clemenceau and Foch wished the British front to extend to 
Berry-au-Bac, on the Oise. P6tain was content with Barisis. 



I9i8] BRITISH DISPOSITIONS 187 

attack anywhere on a front of 130 miles, and from Arras northward 
his hinterland was so narrow and so vital that he could not afford 
to lose much ground. It was different between Arras and the Oise, 
where twenty miles might be relinquished without strategic disaster. 
He was, therefore, compelled to keep the northern and central 
sections of his front well manned and their reserves not far off, and 
he did not dare to weaken them for the sake of the Somme area, 
even though the omens pointed to that as the probable German 
objective. On this last point Haig and his Staff were not in doubt, 
for the British Intelligence Service was positive on the matter, 
and it was by far the best among the belligerents. Weeks before 
the battle the erection of huts for advanced general headquarters 
had been ordered in the Amiens district. The credit of foreseeing 
accurately the coming attack, which Mr. Lloyd George claimed in 
April, in Parliament, for the Versailles Council, belonged in reality 
to Haig and to Haig alone. Versailles was wildly in error. At 
the end of January its considered anticipation was that the attack 
would be delivered about the 1st of July and in the Lens area ; 
the date was three months wrong, and the sector selected was 
the only part of the British front left in peace. 

In the middle of March the British Third Army lay from just 
north of the Arras-Douai road to near Gouzeaucourt in the south. 
Byng had four corps — from left to right the 17th, under Sir Charles 
Fergusson ; the 6th, under Sir Aylmer Haldane ; the 4th, under 
Sir G. M. Harper ; and the 5th, under Sir E. A. Fanshawe.* His 
total front was something over 40,000 yards. Gough on his 72,000 
yards from Gouzeaucourt to the Oise had four corps, comprising 
eleven divisions in line.f His front was so extraordinary that it 
deserves a fuller exposition. From Gouzeaucourt to Ronssoy, 
along the ridge which represented the limit reached by the German 
counter-attack at Cambrai, lay the 7th Corps under Sir Walter 
Congreve, holding a front of 14,000 yards with three divisions and 
one in reserve. From Ronssoy to Maissemy, covering the valley 
of the Omignon, was the 19th Corps under Sir H. E. Watts, holding 
a front of 10,000 yards with two divisions and one in reserve. In 
front of St. Quentin, from the Omignon to the canalized Somme, 
was the iSth Corps under Sir Ivor Maxse, with three divisions in 

* Byng had in line ten divisions — from left to right the Guards, the 15th, 
the 3rd, the 34th, the 59th, the 6th, the 51st, the 17th, the 63rd, and the 2nd ; 
and in reserve the 4th, the 56th, the 47th, the 40th, and the 19th. 

t The 9th, the 21st, the i6th, the 66th, the 24th, the 6ist, the 30th, the 
36th, the 14th, the i8th, and the 58th. In reserve he had the 39th, the 50th 
and the 20th infantry divisions, and two cavalry divisions, the ist and 2nd. 



i88 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [March 

line, and one infantry and one cavalry division in reserve. Its 
front was approximately 18,000 yards. On its right to the Oise 
lay Sir R. H. Butler's 3rd Corps, with three divisions in line and a 
cavalry division in reserve. This corps covered no less than 30,000 
yards — an average of less than one bayonet to the yard ; and the 
reason of such a disposition was that eleven miles of this last front, 
between Moy and the Oise, were supposed to be protected by the 
river and its marshes. • 

The terrain of the sixty miles held by the British Third and 
Fifth Armies was in the main a series of bare plateaux, split into 
fingers by broad valleys running east and west. In the north 
were the east-flowing streams of the Scarpe, the Sensee, and the 
Cojeul, and, farther south, the Cologne and the Omignon running 
west to the Somme, and the canalized upper stream of the Somme 
itself. There were few woods save in the neighborhood of Gou- 
zeaucourt, and at Holnon, west of St. Quentin. The British front 
had no natural defences except on its right, where it ran along the 
Oise ; but the early months of the year had been dry and the 
Oise marshes made only a feeble barrier. Behind its centre lay 
the Somme in its big bend towards P6ronne, with a channel some 
sixty feet broad and four deep; but in- the event of retreat the 
Somme was not a line to rally on, for its tortuous course made it 
easy to turn on the north. On the south the Crozat Canal joined 
it with the Oise and provided a good reserve position. The key- 
points on the Fifth Army front were the high ground at Essigny, 
Holnon, and Ronssoy, commanding respectively the Crozat Canal, 
the valley of the Omignon, and the valley of the Cologne. For 
the Third Army the danger points were the re-entrants of the 
Flesquieres salient and the vital hinge of Arras. 

The British Command attempted to atone for its weakness in 
numbers by devising defences of exceptional strength. The system, 
based on the German plan at Third Ypres, was adopted at a con- 
ference at Doullens on December 7, 191 7. In front lay a "for- 
ward zone," organized in two sections — a line of outposts to give 
the alarm and fall back, and a well-wired line of resistance. In 
the latter were a number of skilfully-placed redoubts, armed with 
machine guns, and so arranged that any enemy advance would be 
drawn on between them so as to come under cross-fire. The re- 
doubts were set 2,000 yards apart, and the spaces between were 
to be protected by a barrage from field guns and corps heavy guns. 
The line of resistance and the redoubts were intended to hold out 
to the last, and to receive no support from the rear except for such 



I9I81 SIR HUBERT GOUGH 189 

counter-attacks as might be necessary. The purpose of the "for- 
ward zone" was to break up the advancing enemy, and the principle 
of its organization was "blobs" rather than a continuous line. 
Behind the "forward zone," at a distance of from half a mile to 
three miles,* came the "battle zone," arranged on the same plan, 
except that it had no outposts. It was a defence in depth, ela- 
borately wired, and studded with redoubts and strong points. 
A mile or two in its rear lay the final defensive zone, less elaborately 
fortified, and by no means completed when the battle began. The 
British Command had confidence in its arrangements, believing 
that the "forward zone" would break up the cohesion of any 
assault, and that the "battle zone" would be impregnable against 
an attack thus weakened. Consequently there were no adequate 
alternative positions prepared in the rear; indeed, considering 
the small number of men available, it was a stark impossibility 
for the army commanders to have provided such safeguards in 
the short time permitted. But a strong bridgehead position was 
in process of construction covering Peronne and the Somme cross- 
ings to the south. Certain arrangements also had been made 
in case of a comprehensive retreat, and orders had been issued 
well in advance for the destruction of the Somme bridges. 

The two army commanders on the threatened front had each 
in his way a high reputation. Both were cavalrymen, and both 
had done brilliant work in the campaign. Sir Julian Byng, as 
commander of the Canadian Corps, had taken Vimy ridge in 
April 1917, and it was he who had instituted the new tactics of 
surprise at Cambrai. Sir Hubert Cough, after a meteoric rise to 
fame in the first year of war, had commanded the Fifth Army at 
the Somme and throughout the long struggle around Bullecourt 
during the battle of Arras. At Third Ypres he had been given 
the leading part, and his army had borne the brunt of the heavy 
fighting in the first month of that action. But there he had some- 
what failed in resource and judgment, and had squandered fine 
divisions against the enemy's defences without attaining his object. 
Hence his old reputation had become a little dimmed, and among 
his soldiers he had acquired the name of a general who tried his 
troops too high and used them blindly as battering-rams against 
the stoutest part of the wall. The criticism was not wholly just, 
but it was widely made, and as a result the Fifth Army had lost 
much of its confidence in its leader. So, when misfortune overtook 
it, Sir Hubert Gough was naturally blamed, though, as will be made 

* In the Flesquieres salient the battle zone was five miles behind the forward 
zone. 



190 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [March 

clear in this narrative, he did all that man could do in an impossible 
situation. It was the failure at Third Ypres which, as is the fashion 
of such things, clouded his record in an engagement from which 
otherwise he must have emerged with a new credit. 

The first weeks of March saw the dry, bright weather of a Pi- 
cardy spring. As early as the 14th our aircraft had reported 
a big concentration well back in the enemy's hinterland, and the 
Third and Fifth Armies were warned of an approaching battle. 
Many raids undertaken during these weeks established the arrival 
of fresh enemy divisions in line, though no idea could be got of 
the real German strength ; and from the evidence of prisoners * 
it appeared that Thursday, the 21st March, was the day appointed 
for the attack. On Tuesday, the 19th, the weather broke in driz- 
zling rain, but it cleared on the Wednesday, with the result that a 
thick mist was drawn out of the ground and muffled all the folds 
of the downs. That day was spent in an eerie calm, like the quiet 
which precedes a storm. When the sun set, the men in the front 
trenches were looking into heavy fog, which grew thicker as dark- 
ness fell. There was no warning of any enemy movement, scarcely 
even a casual shell or the sputter of outpost fire. 

At about 2 a.m. on the 21st the British front was warned to 
expect an assault. The forward zone was always kept fully manned 
and at 4.30 a.m. the order was sent out to man the battle zone. 
Still the same uncanny silence held, and the same clinging fog, 
under cover of which all through the night the Germans were push- 
ing up troops into line, till by dawn on the fifty odd miles of front 
between Croisilles and the Oise they had thirty-seven divisions 
within 3,000 yards of our outposts. Then, precisely at a quarter 
to five, the whole weight of their many thousand guns was released 
against the British forward and battle zones, headquarters, com- 
munications, and artillery positions, the back areas especially 
being drenched with gas which hung like a pall in the moist and 
heavy air. Twenty miles and more behind the line, even as far 
back as the streets of St. Pol, shells were dropped from high 
velocity guns. Nor was the shelling confined to the battle-front. 
The French felt it in wide sections east and north-east of Rheims ; 
it was violent north of Arras and on the line between La Bassee 
and the Lys ; Messines and the Ypres area were heavily attacked, 
and Dunkirk was bombarded from the sea. So widespread and 

* Two deserters from a trench-mortar company. See Ludendorff, op. cit., II., 
p. 596. 



I9i8] THE 21ST OF MARCH 191 

so severe an artillery "preparation" had not yet been seen in the 
campaign. The batteries of the Third and Fifth Armies replied 
as best they could, but no gunner or machine gunner or artillery 
observer could see fifty yards before him. Communication by 
visual signalling, aircraft, or pigeons was impossible, and the only 
method was wireless, which was slow and uncertain. And under 
the same cloak of mist little parties of the enemy were everywhere 
cutting the wire and faltering between our outposts. 

It was a perfect occasion for the new German tactics. The 
infantry advance was timed differently along the front. In one 
place it began as early as eight o'clock, and by ten o'clock it was 
general. The men in the outpost, beaten to the ground by 
the bombardment, and struggling amid clouds of gas, were in 
desperate case. In the thick weather the enemy was beyond the 
places where the cross-fire of machine guns might have checked 
him long before the redoubts were aware of his presence. The 
first thing which most of the outposts knew was that the Germans 
were well in their rear, and they were overwhelmed before they 
could send back warning. The S.O.S. signals sent up were every- 
where blanketed by the fog. Presently the outposts were gone, 
and the Germans were battling in our forward zone. There the 
line of resistance did all that was expected of it. There garrisons 
and redoubts, till far on in the day, held on gallantly ; messages 
continued to be received from many up to a late hour, until that 
silence came which meant destruction. The battle zone had been 
early manned, but the destruction of our communications kept 
it in the dark as to what was happening in front. Too often, too, 
in those mad hours of fog our batteries received their first news of 
the attack from the appearance of German infantry on their flank 
and rear. They fought heroically to the end, mowing down the 
enemy with open sights at point-blank ranges. About one o'clock 
the fog lifted, and then the German airplanes, flying low, attacked 
with machine guns our troops and batteries. The men in the 
battle zone could only wait with anxious hearts till the shock of 
the assault should reach them. 

Before eleven o'clock the army commands had tidings that the 
enemy was through our forward zone on the extreme right oppo- 
site La Fere, where it had been vainly hoped that the Oise marshes 
gave security. Then came news that the same thing had hap- 
pened north of the Bapaume-Cambrai road and at Lagnicourt 
and Bullecourt. At noon came a graver message. The Germans 
were in Ronssoy — inside the battle zone. They had taken Tern- 



192 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [March 

pleux le Gu6rard, and Harglcourt and Villeret, and were now in 
contact with the rear defences of the battle zone, and threatening 
to break through down the valley of the Omignon. On the flanks 
of this area they were still held. The 24th Division was still de- 
fending Le Verguier, which was in the forward zone, and the 21st 
Division had not yielded a yard at Epehy. At the Flesquieres 
salient, too, where the attack had not been pressed, the forward 
zone was intact. But the grave fact remained that by noon, with 
these exceptions, the German infantry had everywhere reached 
our battle zone, and at Ronssoy had bitten deeply into it. Pres- 
ently they were into it at the supposed impregnable section on the 
south between Essigny and Benay, and at Maissemy, above the val- 
ley of the Omignon. At the last point, however, they were held 
by the 24th and 6ist Divisions with the aid of troops from the 1st 
Cavalry Division. On the Third Army front the enemy had reached 
the battle zone at various points between the Canal du Nord and 
the Sensee. He had taken Doignies and Louverval, was on the 
edge of Lagnicourt, and farther north was in Noreuil, Longatte, 
and Ecoust St. Mein. The gallant 9th Division, on the left of the 
Fifth Army, was still maintaining its ground ; the 17th Division 
was in position astride the Canal du Noi-d ; and at Lagnicourt 
the 6th Division was holding the first line of the battle zone. 

In the afternoon the situation developed most gravely south 
of St. Quentin. The enemy was in Fargnier by four o'clock, and 
in the evening pressed in the 58th Division and captured Quessy, 
at the south end of the Crozat Canal. Farther north the i8th 
Division, assisted by troops of the 2nd Cavalry Division, held 
their ground in the battle zone, and even in the forward zone, till 
about midnight the stand of the latter was broken. Between 
Benay and the Somme Canal the 14th Division was forced back 
to the last line of the battle zone, though isolated detachments 
were still resisting east and north-east of Essigny. Around Roupy 
and Savy, where the Germans attacked with tanks — huge things 
mounting the equivalent of a field gun, but unwieldy across country 
— the 30th Division stood firm in the battle zone and took heavy 
toll of the advancing enemy. On the rest of the Fifth Army front 
the battle zone was intact, though hard pressed at Ronssoy, and 
the 9th Division still held their forward positions. In the Third 
Army area the heaviest fighting during the afternoon took place 
around Demicourt and Doignies and north of Beaumetz, where 
the famous 51st Division was engaged. Lagnicourt fell, and for a 
moment it was believed that the enemy would break through be- 



I9i8] THE FIRST EVENING 193 

tween Noreuil and Croisilles. He reached St. Leger, and attempted 
to outflank the 34th Division at Croisilles. By the evening this 
attack had failed, as had the attack against the 3rd Division on 
the left bank of the Sens^e. 

As the night fell the pressure still continued. It had been an 
amazing day. Against nineteen British divisions in line the enemy 
had hurled thirty-seven divisions as a first wave, and, before the 
dark came, not less than sixty-four German divisions had taken 
part in the battle — a number considerably exceeding the total 
strength of the British army in France. Adding the reserves of 
the Third and Fifth Armies, we get a total of thirty-two divisions 
against sixty-four ; and, as a matter of fact, many British divi- 
sions engaged during the day three or four German. The forward 
zone had gone, except in parts in the area of the 9th Division, but 
the battle zone remained, though at Essigny and Ronssoy and 
Noreuil it had worn perilously thin. The greatest total advance of 
the enemy was some 8,000 yards on our extreme right. Counter- 
attacks to recover key points were out of the question owing to our 
lack of reserves, and the most we could do was to maintain our 
thin lines intact and prevent a break through. Our aircraft had 
warned us that the enemy was concentrating huge masses for the 
second day of the battle. It behoved us, therefore, to rearrange 
our front. On the right of the Third Army the 5th Corps was 
retired from the Flesquieres salient, and this involved a withdrawal 
by the 9th Division, which so far had scarcely yielded at all . Byng's 
line now ran in that area along the upland known as Highland 
Ridge, and then westward along the old Siegfried Line to Havrin- 
court and Hermies. On the right of the Fifth Army the 3rd Corps 
was withdrawn behind the Crozat Canal, and this meant that the 
right division of the 18th Corps, the 36th, had to retire to the 
Somme Canal. With the dark the fog thickened, and all night 
long the work of destroying the canal bridges went on. The enemy 
was close up, and in some cases the destruction parties were anni- 
hilated before they could perform their work, so a few bridges 
were left practicable for the German infantry. 

It had been a day of sustained and marvellous heroism — out- 
posts resisting to the last ; batteries fighting with only a man or 
two in the gun teams ; handfuls desperately counter-attacking 
and snatching safety for others with their own lives. But it had 
taken heavy toll of our troops in dead and prisoners, and the rem- 
nant was very weary. Our front was now freed from any marked 
salient, and the barrier of the Somme and Crozat Canals had 



194 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [March 

strengthened the critical section in the south. But the Fifth Army 
was still outnumbered by four to one, and there was no prospect 
of help yet awhile. The fog grew thicker in the night, and at the 
dawn of Friday, the 22nd, it was as dense as on the previous 
morning. Hence we could not use our artillery with effect on the 
German masses, who at the first light began to press heavily on 
the whole battle-ground. 

It soon became clear that the enemy's main effort was against 
the Fifth Army, especially at the three critical points of the Cologne 
and Omignon valleys and the Crozat Canal. Early in the morning 
Hutler had reached the canal at Jussy, and by i p.m. he had crossed 
at Quessy and was pressing on to Vouel. The 58th Division made 
a great stand at Tergnier, but lost that village before the evening. 
In the afternoon the Germans crossed the canal also at La Mon- 
tague and Jussy, but were driven back by the 1 8th Division and 
the 2nd Cavalry Division. At the gate of the Cologne river Mar- 
witz was as far west as Roisel, where the 66th Division held their 
ground for a time. South of the valley, however, Le Verguier 
had fallen by 10 a.m., and to the north Villers Faucon soon fol- 
lowed, so that both Roisel and Epehy were threatened from the 
rear. Accordingly the 66th Division was withdrawn to the third 
defensive zone between Bernes and Boucly, where they were sup- 
ported by the 50th. The 21st Division was also retired from Epehy, 
and on its left the 9th Division was brought back with great 
difficulty to the third zone between Nurlu and Equancourt. By 
the afternoon almost the whole of the Fifth Army was in the third 
defensive position. 

Throughout the day Byng held without serious trouble his 
new line in the Flesquieres salient, but he had to face severe attacks 
between Havrincourt and the Sens^e. The 17th Division made a 
gallant defence at Hermies, which was virtually outflanked ; and 
the 51st Division and a brigade of the 25th stood firm in the Beau- 
metz area. In the late afternoon the 34th Division had at last 
to fall back from St. Leger ; but on its left the 3rd Division retired 
its right flank to a front facing south-east, and held the enemy. 
Under enormous handicaps the Third Army contrived during the 
day to yield little ground, and to exact a high price for every yard. 

But it was otherwise with the Fifth Army. Each of its divi- 
sions had to hold on an average half as much front again as those of 
the Third Army, and Byng's reserves were twice as strong By 
midday the German masses were forcing the gate of the Omignon, 
where the loss of Maissemy and Le Verguier had seriously weakened 



I9i8] THE BATTLE ZONE BROKEN 195 

our line. Division after division pressed to the attack, and pres- 
ently the whole of Cough's centre was out of the battle zone. We 
were driven from the ridge at Holnon, and in all that section the 
divisions in line were forced back behind the third zone of defence, 
where the two reserve divisions, the 20th and the 50th, took over 
the front to enable the others to reorganize behind them. In this 
most hazardous retreat the 36th (Ulster) Division fought with 
especial brilliance. By 5.30 p.m. the enemy was everyw^here 
attacking the final zone. The 30th Division, on a front of over 
10,000 yards, for some hours held up the assault between the 
Cologne and the Omignon, but in the evening it was pressed back 
from Poeuilly, and suddenly it found its right flank turned. For, 
south of the Omignon, a gap had opened between the right wing 
of the 50th and the left of the 6ist and 20th Divisions, Through 
it the Cermans poured, and broke the third zone around Vaux 
and Beauvois. 

That which the British Command most dreaded had come to 
pass. The last reserves had been thrown in, and, save for one 
French division, which arrived in motor busses, and some French 
cavalry now busily engaged at the Crozat Canal, there was no 
help available for the hard-pressed Fifth Army. Petain still be- 
lieved that the attack was a feint and that the real menace was in 
Champagne, but he ordered the French 5th Corps, under General 
Pelle, of three divisions and a chasseur battalion, to take up ground 
on Cough's right. In the meantime, however, the gap could not be 
stopped , so at all costs the British front must withdraw. At 1 1 p.m. 
that night Cough gave orders to fall back to the bridgehead posi- 
tion east of the Somme, a position which, as we have seen, was 
not yet completed. Maxse's i8th Corps was to retire to the Somme 
line south of Voyennes, keeping touch with the 3rd Corps on the 
Crozat Canal. Watts's 19th Corps and Congreve's 7th Corps were 
to hold the Peronne bridgehead on a line running from Voyennes 
through Manchy Lagache to Vraignes, and thence continue in 
the third zone to the junction with the Third Army at Equancourt. 
Byng had to fall back to conform, his front now running from 
Equancourt east of Metz-en-Couture, and then in the third zone 
to Henin-sur-Cojeul, whence the old battle zone was continued to 
Fampoux. His retreat was not seriously threatened, but it was 
otherwise with Cough. All through the thick night the divisions 
of the Fifth Army, now in the last stages of fatigue, retreated 
under constant enemy pressure, covered by rearguards from the 
20th, 50th, and 39th Divisions. In such a retirement complete 



196 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [March 

order was impossible, and it was certain that gaps would be left in 
the new front. Weak points appeared at Mory in the Third Army's 
centre, and at Ham in the area of the i8th Corps, and the 
morning was to give us news of them. 

During the night Gough was faced with a momentous decision. 
The Crozat Canal line was yielding, and his right flank was in 
danger ; he had fallen back to a position where the defences were 
weak and unfinished ; he had intelligence that the whole German 
hinterland was packed with fresh troops ; and he saw no hope 
of reinforcements for several days. His men, strung out on an 
immense front, had been fighting without rest for forty-eight hours. 
If he faced a general engagement on the morrow he might suffer 
decisive defeat. There seemed no course open to him but to aban- 
don the Peronne bridgehead and fall back behind the Somme. 
It was a difficult decision, for, in the words of the official dispatch, 
"it greatly shortened the time available for clearing our troops 
and removable material from the east bank of the river, for com- 
pleting the necessary final preparations, for the destruction of the 
river and canal bridges, for re-forming west of the river the divi- 
sions which had suffered most in the previous fighting, and generally 
for securing the adequate defence of the river line." But the 
alternative was certain disaster, and beyond doubt in the cir- 
cumstances his judgment was right. Accordingly, very early in 
the morning of Saturday, 23rd March, instructions were given to 
the 19th Corps to withdraw gradually to the river line, while the 
7th Corps, on its left, was to take up position between Doingt 
and Nurlu. The latter front just covered P6ronne, and had behind 
it, flowing from north to south, the little river Tortille. 

The withdrawal began on Saturday morning, and was under- 
taken in the face of incessant attacks from an immensely superior 
enemy. That day was perhaps the most difficult in the whole 
annals of the British army. Gaps, as we have seen, had already 
opened in the front taken up the night before, and the task of retreat 
was everywhere complicated by the enemy's presence at points 
in the rear. It was open warfare with a vengeance, and often it 
seemed that the whole British line had lost cohesion, and had been 
jolted into a number of isolated detachments. Hutier began by 
increasing his hold west of the Crozat Canal. He forced a crossing 
at J ussy, and by some means or other got his tanks over. A little 
later, in spite of the stout resistance of the Canadian Cavalry Bri- 
gade, he had crossed at Mennessis, and by noon was advancing 
on the west bank. The French division sent by Pell6 had failed 



I9i8] THE GAP 197 

in their counter-attack towards Tergnier, and all afternoon the 
enemy was slowly pressing in the 3rd Corps among the wooded 
uplands between the Somme and the Oise. Farther north there 
was trouble at Ham, which the Germans entered in the early morn- 
ing ; and, owing to the incomplete destruction of the bridges, 
they succeeded during the day in crossing the river there and at 
Pithon. In the afternoon the resistance of the 20th and 6ist Divi- 
sions prevented them from advancing farther on the southern 
bank. The right wing of the i8th Corps was swinging slowly 
towards the Somme, fighting delaying actions, in which the Ulster 
Division again distinguished itself. 

The retreat of the 19th Corps succeeded better than might 
have been expected, considering the difficulties of a weak force 
retiring in daylight in the face of great numbers, and the 50th 
Division did conspicuous work in covering the withdrawal. By 
3.15 p.m. the whole corps was across the river, and most of the 
bridges had been destroyed. The water was low, the adjacent 
marshes dry, and the depression in which the stream ran was 
sixty feet below the level of the downs on the eastern shore ; but 
the position offered some degree of protection. The Germans 
tried to cross at Offoy and Bethencourt during the afternoon, but 
were repulsed ; and all evening their troops, descending the bare 
slopes on the east, were heavily punished by our guns. North 
of Ham no German had crossed the Somme by nightfall. 

Meanwhile Congreve, on the left, was in serious danger. The 
7th Corps was holding a front just covering Peronne on the high 
grounds towards Nurlu and Equancourt. During the morning 
its left withdrew from Nurlu to the line of the Canal du Nord north 
of Moislains. This caused a gap between it and the right of the 
5th Corps in the Third Army, of which the enemy promptly took 
advantage. Gallant attempts to restore the position were made 
by divisions of the Third Army, but the gap widened hourly. The 
result was that the 7th Corps, late in the afternoon, was forced 
west of P6ronne across the Tortille to the high ground around 
Bouchavesnes and south of Sailly-Saillisel. It was now back on 
the old Somme front held by us before the German retirement 
in March 1 91 7. Its extreme weakness made its line crack into 
fissures, which the Germans searched for and widened, so that 
ere night began its front was not established, and was still slowly 
giving ground. It was the beginning of that attempt to divide 
the Third and Fifth Armies which presently became the immediate 
strategic objective of the enemy. In this and subsequent fight- 



198 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [March 

ing the debt of the British infantry to the Royal Air Force could 
not be overstated. So long as the light endured they kept at bay 
all enemy machines, which otherwise might have discerned the 
nakedness of the land. 

This gap compelled the 5th Corps also to retire. Its right 
was forced back first to the Four Winds Farm, south of Ypres, 
and then, in spite of a great stand by the 47th Division, to a posi- 
tion east of Rocquigny. Farther north the rest of the Third Army 
had a day of desperate battles. Its centre lost La Bucquiere and 
Beugny after a long struggle, in which the 19th Division played 
a gallant part. At Vaulx Vraucourt the 41st Division managed 
to hold its line against six separate assaults for which the enemy 
brought up cavalry and guns. The gap at Mory was temporarily 
closed by the recapture of that village by the 40th Division ; and, 
west of St. Leger, the 31st Division repulsed two German divisions. 
The evening saw the centre and left wing of the Third Army still 
standing firm, though in some danger from the retirement of its 
right flank. At Arras a curious thing had happened. That morn- 
ing Otto von Below had designed a great attack upon our pivot 
there — an attack which in the German, plan was known as the 
"Mars ofifensive." Realizing the danger, Byng had withdrawn 
his troops beforehand from the exposed position at Monchy. The 
enemy directed a violent bombardment on our old lines ; but his in- 
fantry, when they advanced, found them empty. This completely 
upset the German plan, and the attack was postponed till the hea\'y 
guns could be brought up for the destruction of our new front. 

That evening the German bulletins announced that the first 
stage of the great battle had ended, and that a large part of the 
British army had been defeated. They claimed 25,000 prisoners 
and 400 guns. In three days they had advanced at the deepest 
point about nine miles. That morning, as if to signalize their 
triumph, they had begun the shelling of Paris with long-range 
guns, emplaced in a wood near Laon some seven miles inside the 
German lines.* A gun firing at a range of nearly eighty miles was 
a new thing in war, though its feasibility had long been known to 
the Allies. It was a tour de jorce, designed only to weaken the 
moral of the French capital, a task in which it most conspicuously 
failed. But it was a warning to the Allies that Germany was devot- 
ing every energy to her final offensive, and would leave no method 
untried to break her foe. So far she had succeeded greatly, but 

* The guns had a life of less than one hundred shots._ They were laid at 
50 degrees, and a shell went to an altitude of twenty-five miles. 



I9i8] THE THIRD DAY 199 

not beyond her expectations. Indeed, Ludendorff was some way 
behind his programme. On the evening of the 23rd he had done 
little more than reach the positions which he had promised himself 
for the night of the 21st, and, though he had worn the British 
line to a shadow, he had not yet broken it. 

Nevertheless, on that Saturday evening, Haig had food for 
anxious thought. He had arranged with the commanders of the 
First and Second Armies to organize a special force of reserve 
divisions, and he hoped soon to have the Canadian Corps for use 
on the Somme. Also that afternoon P6tain had agreed to take 
over the front south of P6ronne, with the result that the 3rd, 
i8th, and 19th Corps passed under Fayolle. The group of the 
latter contained the First Army under Debeney, on Cough's 
right, and the Third Army, under Humbert, to the south of it. But 
the adjustment of commands did not create fresh troops, and the 
French reserves in any strength could not appear for a day or two, 
since the bulk of the French First Army under Petain's curious 
arrangement was coming from the neighbourhood of Toul. In the 
meantime parts of the British front were obviously at cracking 
point. The Fifth Army was worn out, and, though for a moment 
the 3rd, i8th, and 19th Corps had found a sort of line, they were 
too weak to stand on it for long. The flower of the German forces, 
the 1st and 2nd Guard Divisions, and the 5th and 6th Branden- 
burgers were advancing against them. The 7th Corps was in 
desperate straits west of the Tortille, and was barely in touch with 
the right of the Third Army. There lay the worst danger, and any 
moment might bring news of a breach on a broad front. Giddy 
with lack of sleep, grey with fatigue, tortured by the ceaseless 
bombardment, summoned at almost every hour to repel attacks 
on flank and rear, the British troops had shown a fortitude beyond 
all human praise. But wars are fought with body as well as with 
spirit, and the body was breaking. 

On Sunday morning, 24th March, the mist was as thick as ever. 
The battle of that day had two main features — a fight for the 
Somme crossings, and an effort to fill the breach between the 
Third and Fifth Armies. On the left of the Third Army there was 
little movement, and the serious pressure was all south of the 
Bapaume-Cambrai road. On the right of the Fifth Army, where 
the French had now two infantry divisions and one cavalry division 
in line, supported however by little artillery, the 20th and 36th 
British Divisions were forced back from Cugny and Eaucourt to 



200 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [March 

the neighbourhood of Gulscard. This withdrawal, which was most 
difficult owing to the presence of the enemy on their flanks, was 
made possible by the brilliant work of the 6th Cavalry Brigade. 
The French just north of the Oise were gradually pressed behind 
Chauny, and in the evening were withdrawn to the ridge above 
Crepigny, whence our line ran north-west, covering Guiscard and 
Libermont. 

The 1 8th and 19th Corps battled all day for the Somme crossings. 
The enemy extended the gap at Ham, pressing back the 6ist Divi- 
sion in a south-westerly direction towards the Libermont Canal. 
Here our gunners did wonderful work, often not limbering up and 
retiring till all our infantry had passed through them. Farther 
north a gap at Pargny was widened, so that the left flank of the 
20th Division was in the air. The enemy reached Morchain, and 
the 20th withdrew to the canal. Beyond the gap the 8th Division, 
the first British reserves to arrive in support, made a stout resistance 
on the river line. Early in the morning the Germans had crossed 
at St. Christ and Bethencourt, but at these points had been held. 
The left of the 8th Division stood firm during the day ; but Its 
right, owing to the pressure from Pargny, had to be retired west 
of Morchain. The dry weather had seriously weakened the barrier 
of the Somme. It was now fordable at almost any point, and the 
undergrowth of the valley provided excellent cover for the German 
advance. 

In all this confused and difficult fighting the work of the artillery 
and the cavalry was not less brilliant than that of the Infantry 
divisions. In the 3rd Corps area especially, troops of the 2nd 
and 3rd Cavalry Divisions, mounted and dismounted, covered 
every section of the retreat. So vital was the need of mounted 
troops that several yeomanry regiments which had recently been 
dismounted were hastily provided with horses. Without such 
assistance, In the words of the official dispatch, "the enemy could 
scarcely have been prevented from breaking through the long and 
thinly held front of broken and wooded ground before the French 
reinforcements had had time to arrive." Brilliant, too, was the 
work of the British tanks, which suffered indeed great losses but 
saved many desperate situations, lying in ambush till the last 
moment and then, in the words of their commander, emerging 
"like savage rabbits from their holes." 

By the evening the Somme line between Epenancourt and the 
Peronne bend was still held by us. P^ronne had fallen, and from 
there to north of the Bapaume-Cambrai road was fought the 



I9i8] THE SOUTH AFRICANS AT MARRIERES 201 

most critical action of the day. At dawn the Germans had reached 
Bus, L^chelle, and Le Mesnil, and during the morning they were 
in Sailly, Rancourt, and Clery. This thrust compelled the evacua- 
tion of Bertincourt ; but north of that village, though Mory fell, 
the Guards and the 3rd and 31st Divisions managed to maintain 
a substantial front. Barastre and Rocquigny were held by the 
17th and 47th Divisions till late in the afternoon, but the exposure 
of their right flank forced them to fall back in the evening. For 
the breach between the two armies at the bend of the Somme 
was widening. Early in the afternoon the enemy entered Combles, 
and pressed over the high ground at Morval towards Lesboeufs. 
The left division of the Fifth Army, the 9th, struggled desperately 
just north of the river. Its South African Brigade at Marrieres 
Wood, north of Clery, repeated its exploit of two years before at 
Delville. It held the wood till 4.30 p.m., when its ammunition was 
gone and less than 100 men unwounded remained. The brigade 
ceased to be, but its sacrifice delayed the enemy advance at its 
most crucial point and saved the British front. Few greater ex- 
ploits were performed in the campaign.* 

There was no other course but for the right and centre of the 
Third Army to make a comprehensive withdrawal. The 4th and 
5th Corps were ordered to fall back to the line Bazentin-LeSars- 
Grevillers-Ervillers. It was a task of supreme difficulty, for the 
enemy, working round their right flank, was already between them 
and their new positions, and it was made possible only by the heroic 
work of the machine gunners of the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division. 
The left of the Fifth Army was in worse case, for the remnants 
of the 9th and 21st Divisions were being pushed rapidly along the 
north bank of the Somme behind Clery. At this moment the 35th 
Division, which had arrived at Bray-sur-Somme, and various com- 
posite battalions scraped in the Albert area, came to their relief, 
while the 1st Cavalry Division reached Montauban from the south. 
This enabled a line to be defended from the river at Hem through 
Trones Wood to Longueval. 

But the position at nightfall was very grave. The enemy had 
driven a deep and broad wedge into the centre of the British front. 
While the 19th Corps was still on the Somme south of P6ronne, 
the 7th Corps was six miles farther west, and the 5th Corps had 
swung back precariously to conform. When the dark fell the line 
of the latter was Bazentin-High Wood-Eaucourt I'Abbaye-Ligny- 

* The story may be read in the present writer's History of the South African 
Forces in France, chapter viii. 



202 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [March 

Thilloy. Bapaume had gone the way of Peronne, and the British 
were well to the west of the front won in the Battle of the Somme. 
Farther north, the 4th Corps lay between La Barque and Ervillers. 
It was all a bad emergency line without prepared fortifications. 
Moreover the two armies were not properly in touch, nor were the 
4th and 5th Corps, nor were the divisions themselves. There were 
many gaps which, during the thick night, the enemy was diligently 
exploring. 

Some adjustment of command was necessary, and Congreve's 
7th Corps, now north of the Somme, was put under Byng. When 
the morning of Monday the 25th dawned it became clear that the 
main German effort would be made between Ervillers and the 
river at Hem. During the night there had been strong assaults 
on the left of this front about Sapignies and Behagnies, and shortly 
after dawn an attack between Favreuil and Ervillers was repulsed. 
The 42nd Division retook Sapignies, and the stand of the 2nd 
Division at Ligny-Thilloy saved the situation during the morning. 
But at noon the attack was renewed in great force, and the right 
of the 4th Corps, which had lost touch with the 5th Corps, was 
slowly bent back west of Grevillers and Bihucourt. Just north of 
the Somme the 7th Corps, though its left flank was in the air, suc- 
ceeded in holding its ground in spite of the advance of five German 
divisions. But in the 5th Corps zone between Montauban and 
Ervillers it soon became clear that the front was crumbling. In 
spite of a gallant stand by the 63rd Division, the various units, 
which were out of touch with each other, began to straggle back 
towards the Ancre. In the afternoon the enemy was in Courcelette, 
and pressing on to Pys and Irles, thereby turning the flank of the 
4th Corps. At Beaucourt some of our men were already west of 
the stream. 

Orders were accordingly issued to take up the Ancre line. The 
right wing of the Third Army, now the 7th Corps, fell back to posi- 
tions between Bray and Albert, just covering the latter place ; 
the 5th Corps held the river-bank from Albert to Beaumont Hamel ; 
the 4th Corps withdrew to the line Bucquoy-Ablainzevelle, linking 
up with Haldane's 6th Corps at Boyelles. This left a gap between 
Beaumont Hamel and Serre, which promised trouble for the next 
day. Reinforcements, however, were now reaching the Third 
Army area ; and the German thrust was weakening, partly from the 
fatigue of the divisions of attack and partly from the difficulties 
of transport over the old Somme battle-ground. 

Meanwhile the rapid retreat of the Fifth Army had fatally 



I9i8] THE FIRST FRENCH REINFORCEMENTS 203 

compromised the situation beyond the Somme. Everywhere the 
line of the river south of Peronne had gone, all reserves had been 
drawn into the fight, and in the area of the i8th and 19th Corps 
there was no hope of immediate succour. Each hour our front grew 
longer and the weariness of our men greater. In the 3rd Corps 
area, however, the French were arriving. Guiscard had fallen 
during the night, and early on the morning of the 25th a strong 
attack developed against the Allied position on the spurs east of 
Noyon. The French and British batteries north of the Oise Canal 
were withdrawn by i p.m. south of Appilly, with the help of dis- 
mounted troops of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade. All afternoon 
there was bitter fighting there, and by the evening the i8th Division 
had retaken the village of Baboeuf. But the Germans, pressing 
south-west from Guiscard, entered Noyon before the dark fell, 
and this compelled all our front east of the town to retire south of 
the Oise. During the night the withdrawal was successfully 
effected. The French were now appearing in such strength that 
it became possible to take the remnants of the 3rd Corps out of the 
line and send them north to help the Fifth Army. 

That army, now consisting of only two corps, was all day in 
tragic straits. At Licourt there was a gap between the i8th 
and 19th Corps, which grew wider during the day. The enemy 
entered Nesle, and forced the i8th Corps back to the south bank 
of the Ingon River and west of the Libermont Canal, while the 
right of the 19th Corps was pressed back towards Chaulnes behind 
the blazing ruins of March61epot. The left wing up till midday 
was holding the east bank of the canal between Villers Carbonnel 
and Barleux, but this had now become an impossible salient. 
Accordingly, during the evening, the 19th Corps was brought back 
to the line Hattencourt-Estr6es-Frise, under cover of a counter- 
attack south of Biaches by the 39th Division. The gap between 
the two corps west of Nesle was ever broadening, and early in the 
night the Germans had reached Liancourt Wood, when a brigade 
of the 20th Division, brought up from the south and now reduced 
to 450 rifles, made a brilliant stand, and enabled the rest of the 
division to fall back towards Roye. 

That evening the British front was disposed in a series of over- 
lapping salients. The French in the old 3rd Corps area were far- 
thest east ; then the i8th and 19th Corps stood out in a long projec- 
tion from Liancourt to Frise ; while north of the Somme, in a still 
wider salient, the right wing of the Third Army rested on the Ancre. 
The enemy seemed to have every prospect of separating the British 



204 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [March 

and French forces about Roye, the Fifth and Third Armies on the 
Somme, and the 5th and 4th Corps at Serre. 

The moment was far too solemn for half measures. A divided 
command could not defend the long, lean front of the Allies against 
the organized might of Germany, directed by a single brain toward 
a single purpose. Hitherto they had only toyed with the problem. 
Versailles was a useful step, but no advisory council could provide 
the cure for disunion, and the Executive Committee was doomed 
from the start. One strong hand must be on the helm, and one 
only. It is fair to say that the opposition to the appointment of 
a generalissimo had not come from one Government alone ; all the 
Allied Governments had fought shy of it ; the British Prime Minister, 
while an enthusiastic advocate of Versailles, had stopped short of 
the final step. But now the iron compulsion of facts had broken 
down the barriers. On the 23rd Haig, after seeing Petain, tele- 
graphed to London asking that the Chief of the Imperial General 
Staff should come out at once. At the request of the Prime Minister 
Lord Milner also crossed the Channel on the 24th. Next day he 
met Petain and Foch at Compi^gne, and found the former still 
anticipating a German attack elsewhere and unwilling to stake too 
much on the Amiens area. On Tuesday, the 26th, Milner and Sir 
Henry Wilson met Clemenceau and Poincare, Haig, Foch, and 
Petain at DouUens, the meeting being only achieved with difficulty 
owing to the confusion of the roads. That conference, held amid 
the backwash of the great retreat, marked in a sense the turning 
point of the war. The proposal for a supreme commander-in-chief, 
strongly urged by Milner and supported by Clemenceau, was 
accepted by Petain and welcomed by Haig. For the post there 
could be only one choice. Sir Henry Wilson's first idea that 
Clemenceau should be appointed the nominal generalissimo was 
abandoned, and Foch was unanimously chosen. He was by uni- 
versal consent the master mind among the Allied generals. The 
most learned and scientific soldier in Europe, he had shown his 
greatness in the field at the Marne and First Ypres ; but for long 
his genius had been hampered, partly by professional jealousies, 
partly by the exponents of that political game which he whole- 
heartedly despised. Not since November 1914 can it be said that 
he had been used as his qualities deserved. His guiding hand had 
been present at the Battle of the Somme ; but during the first half 
of 1 91 7 he had suffered from the confused relations between the 
Army and the politicians. The Versailles Council had brought him 
again to the front ; but he was born for greater things than staff 



I9i8] FOCH APPOINTED GENERALISSIMO 205 

work. Now the Allies in their extremity turned with one accord 
to the slight, grizzled, deep-eyed man of sixty-six, who during a 
laborious lifetime had made himself a finished master of war. 
That evening it was announced that Foch had assumed control of 
the forces in the West.* This narrative will record how nobly the 
new Constable of France fulfilled his trust. 

The General-in-Chief had been found ; but on that Tuesday 
morning it looked as if presently he might have no armies to com- 
mand. The situation just south of the Somme was all but des- 
perate. Unless reserves could be found it seemed certain that the 
gossamer line of the 19th Corps must break. It must fall back 
still farther ; and, if help did not come, the way to Amiens was open. 
On the 25th Gough had begun to collect a motley force, made up 
of stragglers, details returning to units, the personnel of a machine- 
gun school, army troops, tunnelling companies, and Canadian and 
American engineers ; and on the 26th, under the command of 
Major-General Grant, the Chief Engineer of the Fifth Army, they 
prepared the old line of the Amiens defences from Mezieres by 
Marcelcave to the Somme at Hamel. Later, Brigadier-General 
Sandeman Carey, an officer of field artillery returning from leave, 
was put in charge, and commanded the detachment throughout the 
subsequent fighting ; so that his name has become identified with 
the performance. But the credit of the inception and organization 
of the force belongs to Gough and the Fifth Army staff. These 
were the sole reserves available for this most vital section, and, 
since the 19th Corps could not be expected to hold any new enemy 
advance, orders were given to withdraw slowly from the Hatten- 
court-Frise line to the position Le Quesnoy-Rosi^res-Proyart, and 
to link up with the Third Army at Bray. 

The Fifth Army was now fighting entirely on virgin soil, which 
no enemy had trod since the Western front was first established. 
The Third Army, in one part at least, was in the same case. During 
the morning of Tuesday, the 26th, the enemy poured through the 
gap between Beaumont Hamel and Puisieux, and occupied Colin- 
camps with machine guns. These were silenced, however, by the 

* The formula was: "Le g6n6ral Foch est charge par les gouvernements 
britannique et frangais de coordonner Taction des armees alliees sur le front 
ouest. II s'entendra a cet efifet avec les g^n^raux en chef, qui sont invites ^ 
lui fournir tous les renseignements n6cessaires." On 3rd April, at Beauvais, 
Foch was given "la direction strat^gique des operations militaires." But the 
Commanders-in-Chief had still the complete control of tactics and the right of 
appeal against Foch to their respective Governments. It was not till 24th 
April that Foch received the " commandement en chef des armies alliees." 



2o6 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [March 

field artillery of the 2nd Division, which galloped into action and 
engaged them with open sights. In the afternoon the New Zealand 
Division, which had just come up, retook Colincamps, and on their 
left a brigade of the 4th Australians filled the breach between 
Hebuterne and Bucquoy, thereby protecting the right flank of the 
4th Corps. At Colincamps there appeared for the first time a 
weapon which was destined to play a great part in subsequent 
battles — the light British "whippet" tank. 

Our front north of Albert was now more or less stable. On the 
right of the battle-ground we had to face a strong German thrust 
west and south-west from Nesle. The intention of the enemy was 
to divide the British and French forces, and by the speedy capture 
of Montdidier to prevent the detraining of the French reserves. 
The 1 8th Corps was now west and north of Roye, and from Hatten- 
court up to the Amiens-St. Quentin road the 19th Corps was being 
gradually driven back by repeated assaults. It was the strangest 
fighting. Each antagonist was utterly tired, and attacks and 
counter-attacks were carried out at a slow walk. Men fell down 
helpless from fatigue, and both sides took unwounded prisoners, who 
were simply paralyzed with weariness. This withdrawal, combined 
with the retreat of the French south-west of Roye, left a breach in 
the front, into which were flung the 36th and 30th Divisions, who 
had been taken out to rest on the previous day. The Germans 
reached Erches, and, though their flank was turned, the Ulster 
Division at Andechy managed to hold out till the afternoon of the 
rwsxt day, thereby compelling the enemy to check the speed of his 
advance. It was a matter of the most urgent need to stave him 
off from Montdidier as long as possible. Farther north, at Le 
Quesnoy, a hundred officers and men of the 20th Division, detailed 
to cover the withdrawal, kept the Germans at bay until six in the 
evening ; only eleven survivors returned from this new Thermopylae. 
At nightfall the gap had been partially closed, and touch had been 
found with the French, the line south of the Somme now running 
from Proyart by way of Rouvroy to Guerbigny. Hutier was now 
some five miles from Montdidier. The situation was still most 
anxious ; but one thing had happened to disquiet the German 
High Command. Their front of assault was being narrowed. 
Fayolle's thrust from the south-west had shepherded the enemy 
north by west from the heights of Noyon. He no longer had the 
Oise to protect his left wing, and, when he reached Montdidier, he 
would have an exposed flank of some twenty miles. 

But the British centre on the Somme was in evil case. In the 



I9i8] BYNG ON THE ANCRE 207 

opening stage of the retreat the Fifth Army had embarrassed the 
Third ; it was now the turn of the Third Army to put the left of 
the Fifth in jeopardy. The 7th Corps, on Byng's right, had taken 
up the Bray-Albert line by the morning of the 26th, and that day, 
at M^aulte, the 9th Division had beaten off many attacks. But 
the corps commander misunderstood Byng's plan. He thought 
that the Bray-Albert line was only a temporary halting-place, 
and that it was his business to retire to the Ancre. Accordingly 
during the afternoon he fell back, and had gone too far before the 
army staff realized what had happened. The result was that that 
evening the 7th Corps rested on the Somme at Sailly-le-Sec, while 
the 19th Corps across the river were at Proyart, five miles farther 
east. This uncovered the flank of the Fifth Army, and gave the 
enemy the chance to cross and take it in rear. An emergency force 
of 350 men with Lewis guns and armoured cars was detailed to 
watch the fords. 

The result of this misunderstanding appeared early on Wednes- 
day, the 27th. From 8.30 a.m. onwards the enemy attacked every- 
where south of the Somme, and all day the British and the French 
toiled desperately to delay his progress to Montdidier, and to de- 
fend a line which would keep Amiens from bombardment. In the 
south Hutier captured Lassigny and its heights. Farther north he 
took Davenescourt, and entered Montdidier. From Arvillers to 
Rosieres the 20th, 30th, and 24th Divisions held their ground dur- 
ing the day, and the 8th Division defended Rosieres against all 
attacks. Thence to the river, however, there was something not far 
from disaster. The enemy crossed the Somme between Chipilly 
and Cerisy, and so turned our position at Proyart. Heavily at- 
tacked in front also, the 19th Corps fell back, leaving Proyart, 
Framerville, and Morcourt in German hands. The enemy tried 
to push south in its rear, and troops of the 1st Cavalry Division were 
brought across the river from the Third Army to occupy Bouzen- 
court. Battalions of the 50th and the 8th Divisions (the latter 
also now engaged at Rosieres) made a gallant stand south-west of 
Proyart, and the 66th Division counter-attacked at Framerville. 
The position at nightfall was that our front ran from Rosieres 
east and north of Harbonnieres, and then north-west to Bouzen- 
court. But it could not stand for long, for the enemy was still 
filtering across the river in the ill-omened gap. 

North of the Somme that day the situation was better. During 
the night of the 26th-27th the enemy had entered Albert, and had 
won a footing in Aveluy Wood across the Ancre. During the 



2o8 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [March 

27th, however, he failed to Increase his hold west of the stream, 
and was unable to debouch from Albert, where we held the line of 
the railway embankment. From midday onward he attacked the 
4th Corps between Bucquoy and Hamelincourt, and gained pos- 
session of Ablainzevelle and Ayette, but the 62nd Division, the 
42nd, and the Guards maintained the rest of the front intact. 
Except on its right wing, the Third Army was now in a position 
of fair security, but it was aware that presently the storm would 
break on the Arras pivot. 

On the morning of Thursday, the 28th, there began that stage 
in the battle in which the immediate enemy objective was the 
capture of Amiens. The original plan had been for Otto von Below 
and Marwitz to break through north of the Somme and roll the 
British towards the sea, while Hutier formed their flank guard to 
ward off the French. But they had failed to break Byng ; on the 
other hand, Hutier had found a weak point, and it was resolved to 
exploit his success and take Amiens.* The Germans, as in 1870, 
delivered their main attack along the high ground to the south- 
west, split into shallow valleys by the streams of the Doms, the 
Avre, and the Luce, which with the Somme and the Ancre make 
up the Five Rivers of Picardy. It was difficult ground for the 
defence, for the streams in this dry spring were no barrier, and 
the narrows between the Luce and the Avre were a trap which 
might well be fatal to a weak army. Ten miles west of the Avre 
ran the great Calais-Paris railway, the main route for the lateral 
communications of the Allies. Beyond it there was nothing but a 
single line till Beauvais was reached. If the enemy won the heights 
beyond the Avre he could at once put the trunk railway out of use. 
It had already been crippled by nightly German bombing raids ; 
but guns west of Moreuil would make it wholly untenable. The 
same advance would bring the enemy within twelve miles of the 
centre of Amiens. If Hutier could cut the line before the French 
reinforcements detrained, he would have a clear road to the city. 
It was true that his plan had partially miscarried. He had hoped 
to divide the British and French forces when he had still the Oise 
to guard his flank, and every day that success tarried made his 
situation more risky. But there was yet time for a complete 

* The decision was reached by Ludendorff at 9.30 a.m. on 23rd March. It 
meant the temporary rehnquishment of the greater strategical plan in favour of 
a lesser, and as such was opposed by the Imperial Crown Prince, who wished 
to use the fifteen fresh divisions still in reserve for the attack north of the 
Somme. — See Kritik des Weltkrieges, 1921. 



I9i8] THE END OF THE FIFTH ARMY 209 

break through, if only he cut the Paris line before it could be used 
to bring up any serious reserves. The capture of Amiens would 
follow, and the thin curtain of the British would be torn like tissue 
paper. But he must make haste, for his army had marched 
thirty-eight miles from its starting-point, was short of food and 
munitions, and a long way ahead of its heavy guns. The posi- 
tion was too like the days before the Marne to be free from dis- 
quiet ; but, on the other hand, the French had then been retiring 
on their base, and now their retreat was in an eccentric direction. 

The 28th was a critical day everywhere from Arras to the Oise. 
Let us look first at the much-harassed centre. During the night 
enemy bands worked southward from Cerisy and Morcourt, took 
Warfus6e-Abancourt and Bayonvillers, and got astride the Amiens- 
St. Quentin road. This compelled the 19th Corps to swing back, 
pivoting on its right, to the line Vr61y-Marcelcave, where the force 
which we may call "Carey's Detachment," with the ist Cavalry 
Division in close support, continued the front to the river. It 
was presently clear that a more comprehensive retirement was 
necessary, for the position of the i8th Corps in the narrow salient 
between the Luce and the Avre could not be maintained. The 
Germans were attacking hard at Marcelcave ; they were in Guillau- 
court and pressing southward ; and they had turned our right 
flank by the capture of Contoire. The 6ist Division, brought up 
in motor busses from the south, attempted to relieve the pressure 
by a counter-attack at Warfusee-Abancourt, but failed to stem the 
tide. Accordingly we fell back through the 20th Division, which 
held the line Mezieres-Demuin, and at nightfall were everywhere 
on the line of the old Amiens defences. 

That day marked the end of the stand of the Fifth Army. The 
divisions which had suffered most were withdrawn and sent to the 
Abbeville area to refit. Its commander. Sir Hubert Gough,was 
directed to supervise the construction of new defence lines in the 
rear, and the force between the Somme and the French was re- 
christened the Fourth Army, and put under the command of Sir 
Henry Rawlinson and the old Fourth Army staff. The British 
line was once again wholly in the charge of Sir Douglas Haig. The 
new Army, when constituted, held only the short line from the 
Somme to the Luce, and to begin with was composed of Carey's 
Detachment, some cavalry, and the few divisions which had come 
up during the battle. 

Meantime FayoUe was hard pressed, and on his front various 
British units were also engaged. P^tain had been slow to con- 



210 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [March 

vince, and his nervousness about Paris prevented his arrangement 
with Haig being carried out accordingly to the agreed time-table. 
Frequently the Germans were the first to arrive at the French 
detraining stations. The original plan had been that the French 
should take over the whole front south of the Somme, but the 
British line was now seven miles south of the river. The day began 
with the line running from Warvillers by Arvillers to just west of 
Montdidier. It was steadily forced back to the Avre and the Doms ; 
but south of Montdidier a counter-attack stayed the enemy progress 
and retook the villages of Courtemanche, Mesnil St. Georges, and 
Assainvillers, which had been lost. Farther north the French were 
driven out of Demuin and Moreuil. Between Montdidier and the 
Gise, at Pont I'Eveque, they counter-attacked successfully, driving 
the enemy back two miles on a front of six. So far Hutier had 
failed to get within range of the Paris railway, and the French 
reserves were coming up. Meanwhile Foch was furiously busy 
collecting reserves from his whole front, and the first fruits of 
his work appeared that day when a French Colonial Division came 
into line west of Montdidier. It was a proof to the enemy that his 
days of grace were fast vanishing. 

He had another proof at the northern end of the battle-ground. 
Between seven and eight o'clock on the morning of the 28th Otto 
von Below hurled his weight on Arras. His guns had been brought 
up, and the attack originally staged for the 23rd was now delivered. 
The front of assault was across the valley of the Scarpe from the 
neighbourhood of Gavrelle to as far south as Puisieux. Its immedi- 
ate object, as was learned from captured documents, was to recover 
Arras and the Vimy ridge, and its larger purpose was to free the 
German armies from a front now growing too narrow for their 
comfort. Below had three fresh divisions north of the Scarpe, 
besides the two in line ; against Arras he had four divisions ; while 
southward towards Serre no less than eleven divisions were dis- 
posed for the attack. The British forces were the 13th Corps north 
of the Scarpe, under Sir H. de B. de Lisle, on the right of Home's 
First Army ; and from Arras to Bucquoy, Sir Charles Fergusson's 
17th Corps and Sir Aylmer Haldane's 6th Corps, 

The morning was fine, and the enemy had not his old advantage 
of fog. The advance was made after a short but very fierce bom- 
bardment, and was met by our guns firing under perfect condi- 
tions of weather. Indeed, before zero hour we had broken up with 
our artillery the masses assembling on Greenland Hill. Every- 
where the enemy attacked with the greatest resolution, in some 



I9i8] GERMAN FAILURE AT ARRAS 211 

places In six lines shoulder to shoulder, offering superb targets 
for our gunners. The weight of the shock carried him through 
gaps in our outpost line, but he was firmly held long before he reached 
the battle zone, while the outpost garrisons turned their machine 
guns and caught him in rear. North of the Scarpe the 4th and 
56th Divisions, and, south of the river, the 3rd and 15th Divisions, 
repelled the enemy — the two latter divisions fighting on the very 
ground where they had won renown at the Battle of Arras the year 
before. After midday the Germans began a new bombardment, 
and late in the afternoon attacked again north of the Scarpe, but 
with no better result. At the end of the day we had our battle 
zone untouched, and were able by counter-attacks to push out a 
new outpost line in front of it. The surviving garrisons of the old 
forward zone had for the most part fought their way back through 
the enemy to our lines. Otto von Below's great effort was a com- 
plete and disastrous failure, and the spasmodic attacks on the rest 
of the Third Army front were no better fated. The Guards, the 
31st, the 42nd, the 62nd, and the 4th Australian Divisions beat off 
all attacks from Boiry to Bucquoy. Only on the extreme right had 
we yielded a little ground, falling back south of Dernancourt to the 
line Mericourt-Sailly-le-Sec. The German check at Arras marked 
the end of the main battle so far as concerned the front north of 
the river. For a week and more there were local encounters, but 
Byng was now out of danger. 

South of the Somme, however, things were still critical. On 
the morning of Friday, 29th March, the new Fourth Army had 
achieved some semblance of a line ; but it was still desperately 
weak in men. Its immediate problem was to disengage its weary 
units, and the only reinforcements available were some of the 
divisions of the 3rd Corps, which had had only the scantiest period 
of rest. That was one danger ; the other and the greater was the 
furious pressure on the French, for the enemy was beginning to 
put his chief weight into the attack between Moreuil and Noyon, 
where his communications were easier than in the devastated 
Somme battlefield, and it was still doubtful whether sufficient 
reserves for Fayolle would arrive in time. On the 29th the Ger- 
mans attacked from D6muin southward, and the French were 
driven out of Mezi^res, though in the Montdidier region they were 
able to retain the villages which they had recaptured on the pre- 
vious day. During the night the Germans won Moreuil Wood, 
which we retook on the morning of the 30th ; we lost D^muin, 
but later in the day recaptured it and Moreuil village. It was 



212 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [April 

confused fighting, for the British were inextricably mixed up with 
the French, and the British cavalry have never been seen to finer 
advantage. The ist, 2nd, and 3rd Cavalry Divisions and the 
Canadian Cavalry Brigade, together with the 66th, the 20th, and 
50th Divisions, and the 3rd Australian Division, though they had 
to yield ground, established a line from the Luce northward. South 
of that stream the front was still in a state of flux. The enemy 
won the ridge west of the Avre at Aubvillers, Cantigny, and Mesnil 
St. Georges, and retook Monchel and Ayencourt. Towards Las- 
signy the French stood firm, and even made some progress. 

On Easter Sunday, the last day of March, the situation was 
grave, for the French reserves were still slow in coming. During 
the morning the Germans attacked between the Luce and the Avre, 
and captured Hangard, from which they were presently ejected. 
Farther south the Allies were driven back to the railway station 
at Moreuil ; but a fine attack by the British 8th Division enabled 
us to recapture the wood north-east of the town. On the heights 
of the Avre the French retook Grivesnes, and, south of Montdidier, 
they re-entered Monchel and Assainvillers. That day saw the end 
of the worst anxiety, for Fayolle had been strongly reinforced. 
On the 1st of April the British 8th Division and troops of the 2nd 
Cavalry Division won back some of the high ground north of Moreuil 
and in the evening the British forces there were relieved, the French 
taking over the front as far north as the village of Thennes, on the 
Luce. 

Then for two days came a lull. On the 4th of April Hutier 
made a last attempt to break through at the junction of the two 
armies. On the British front south of the Somme, from the river 
to Hangard, the assault was made at 7 a.m., and succeeded in 
driving back the left * of the Fourth Army west of Hamel and 
Vaire Wood, which lay south-west of the village. From the Amiens- 
St. Quentin road to the Luce the right wing stood firm. The pres- 
sure on the French, however, compelled it in the afternoon to with- 
draw a little in Hangard Wood. Fayolle had to face a determined 
thrust by fifteen divisions, which virtually drove him out of the 
angle between the Luce and the Avre, and pressed him back to 
the west of the latter river behind the high ground on which stood 
the hamlets of Castel, Morisel, and Mailly-Raineval. Farther 
south his front held, and repulsed all attacks at Grivesnes. The 
Germans were now within a couple of miles of the Paris railway ; 

* This w^s no longer Carey's Detachment, which had been reheved on 31st 
March. 



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I9i8] CLOSE OF SOMME RETREAT 213 

but its importance was not so great, for the French reserves had come 
into line. The British resistance on that day was highly creditable, 
and the dense masses of the enemy offered them the chance of a 
wholesale destruction. Most notable was the work of the gunners 
of the 3rd Australian Division north of the Somme, who from 
beyond the river protected our left flank at Hamel, and engaged 
the enemy over open sights. 

Ludendorff had fixed the 4th of April as the close of the battle, 
but on Friday, 5th April, it was renewed on the southern front, 
and for a moment, too, flared up north of the Somme. Here the 
Germans advanced with ten divisions between Bucquoy and Der- 
nancourt, but though they gained a little ground at these two 
places and at Beaumont Hamel, our line was never seriously shaken. 
Indeed, their losses were so utterly out of proportion to their gains 
that the day may be reckoned as an enemy defeat. South of the 
Somme he had no better fortune. There was severe fighting around 
Hangard ; but the Germans failed to advance anywhere, and on 
the ridge west of the Avre the French made appreciable gains. 
On the southern front of the long salient, between Montdidier and 
Noyon, they advanced their line north of Orvillers Sorel and of 
Mont Renaud. On Saturday, the 6th, enemy attacks south-west of 
Montdidier and in front of Noyon at Mont Renaud were repulsed ; 
but it became necessary for the French to withdraw their troops 
from the ground they still retained on the right bank of the Oise. 
They retired across the river south of Chauny to the line Nor- 
meziere-Pierremande. Two days later the extreme right of their 
battle-front fell back under strong enemy pressure to the Ailette. 

The retreat from the Somme was at an end. The Allied front 
had been established, and the road to Amiens was for the moment 
closed, though the enemy held a position on the high ground west 
of the Avre and on the plateau of Villers Bretonneux, from 
which, when he was ready, he could renew the attack. For the 
present he had exhausted his strength in the Somme area, and had 
thrown into the battle many weak divisions which had been already 
engaged. He had increased, too, the length of his front by thirty- 
five miles. The German High Command was now compelled to 
reconsider their purpose and to seek to achieve it by a blow in 
another quarter. 

The Allied nations had faced the peril with an admirable calm- 
ness and courage. There was little recrimination, no hint of panic, 
and a very general drawing together of classes and a girding of 



214 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [April 

loins to meet any demand which the future might bring. America 
increased her recruiting, and strained every nerve to quicken the 
dispatch of troops, so that she might soon stand in line with her 
allies. Mr. Lloyd George and M. Clemenceau appealed to President 
Wilson, and no appeal was ever more nobly met. Mr. Baker, the 
United States Secretary of War, was fortunately in France at 
the time, and could judge the situation for himself. Meantime, 
General Pershing postponed his plan of a separate American sector 
of operations, and offered to Foch every man, gun, and lorry which 
America had in Europe to do with as he pleased. France, unshaken 
by a menace which struck at her very heart, showed that quiet 
and almost prosaic resolution to win or perish which two years 
before had inspired her troops at Verdun. In Britain the threat 
of industrial strikes disappeared. The workers forewent their 
Easter holiday of their own accord in order to make up by an 
increased output for lost guns and stores. It looked as if the good 
spirit of 19 14 had been reborn, when men spoke not of rights or 
interests, but of what service they might be privileged to give to 
their country. In January the new man-power proposals had been 
introduced ; but by the end of March they seemed comically in- 
sufificient. On Wednesday, loth April, by a majority of 223, the 
House of Commons passed a Bill raising the limit of military age 
to fifty, and giving the Government power to abolish the ordinary 
exemptions, and to extend conscription to Ireland. Two divisions 
and other units were transferred from Palestine to France, and a 
contingent from Salonika. Moreover, the old doctrine of the 
necessity of keeping a certain force inside our shores to protect 
them from invasion was summarily abandoned, and within a month 
from the 21st of March 355,000 men were sent across the Channel. 
We may pause to consider this first stage in the ultimate struggle, 
the first battle in the last German offensive. From the enemy 
point of view it represented a qualified success. The Allied front 
was for the moment re-established, but it was deplorably weakened ; 
and the Germans, though their losses were very high, had now a 
total superiority of some thirty divisions in the West, and a fresh 
mass of manceuvre of at least twenty-five divisions. ' Ludendorff 
had not realized his full conception, but he had still the power to 
win if he had the skill. The first bout was over ; but there were 
others to come, and the Allies were far indeed from safety. The 
gate of Amiens had been shut, but the next blow might shatter it. 
One thing was already clear — the splendour of the British perform- 
ance. The fight had begun with an attack by sixty-four German 



I9i8] THE CAUSE OF DEFEAT 215 

divisions on thirty-two British. By the end of March seventy- 
three German divisions had engaged thirty-seven British. By 
9th April the total British force in action had grown to forty-six 
divisions of infantry and three of cavalry, and against them more 
than eighty German divisions had been launched. The disparity 
was in reality far greater than two to one, for, owing to the German 
power of local concentration, in many parts of the field the odds 
had been three or four to one. After the second day we had no 
prepared lines on which to retire, and the rivers parallel to our 
front were useless from the drought. Again and again a complete 
disaster was miraculously averted. Scratch forces, composed 
largely of non-combatants, held up storm-troops; cavalry did 
work that no cavalry had ever done before in the history of war ; 
gunners broke every rule of the text-books. The retreat was in 
flat defiance of all precedent and law, and it succeeded only because 
of the stubborn valour of the British soldier.* • 

The cause of the defeat — for defeat it is, when two armies fall 
back thirty miles with heavy losses, and have the enemy's will 
imposed on them — was not any blunder of strategy on the part 
of the British High Command. Haig, with the troops at his dis- 
posal, could not have done otherwise than he did. He could not 
keep adequate reserves at every point, and he was right not to 
thin the northern sections. It is true that there were no good alter- 
nate lines behind his front, but he had not had the time or the men 
to construct them. From no fault of his the third defensive zone 
was a farce, and the Peronne bridgehead too weak to be of service. 
Nor can the situation be reasonably blamed upon Petain. He 
had good reason to believe that the Rheims area was threatened, 
and the enemy's exact intention could not be determined till the 
battle was joined. He was stubborn in his own forecast, and, 
it may fairly be said, a little obtuse ; but he had grave national 
responsibilities to remember, and, in the absence of a generalissimo, 
it was natural that they should preoccupy his mind. Finally, 
no fault can be found with the work of the commanders of the two 
British armies or of the eight British corps. It is hard to see how 
they could have continued to hold the Peronne bridgehead, and the 
failure to destroy the Somme bridges was due not to lack of fore- 
sight but to a trick of malevolent fortune, like the morning fogs 
and the dry marshes of the Somme and the Oise. The one patent 

* To realize the greatness of the battle it is instructive to compare it with 
Verdun. There, between 21st February and 21st March, 1915, the French had 
to face 20^ German divisions. Between 21st March and 17th April the British 
front was attacked by 102, and the French front by 25 divisions. 



2i6 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [April 

blunder in the whole battle, the premature withdrawal from the 
Bray-Albert line on 26th March, was such a misunderstanding 
as may happen in any great struggle. As for Sir Hubert Gough, 
who suffered most in repute, there was no single flaw in his conduct 
of the retirement. On the contrary, it was due to him and his 
staff that Carey's Detachment held the gap, and his courage and 
cheerfulness never failed him. The fight of the Fifth Army against 
incredible odds will remain one of the most glorious episodes in the 
history of British arms, and its commander concluded his military 
career with its most brilliant chapter. 

It is a futile business to apportion blame amid the infinite acci- 
dents of war ; but it is very certain that whatever discredit attached 
to the Somme retreat it did not fall upon the British soldier. The 
cause of the disaster was simply that a long front had been imposed 
upon Haig, and that he had not been given sufficient men where- 
with to hold it. He had never ceased to plead for more levies 
from home, and to impress upon his Government the formidable 
character of the impending blow and the sector in which it would 
fall. The decision to extend to the Oise was not his, but that of 
the two Governments. The responsibility for the defeat must be 
laid upon the British War Cabinet, and principally upon the Prime 
Minister. Mr. Lloyd George saw with perfect clearness one part of 
the military problem of Britain, but he saw nothing steadily or whole. 
He realized the folly of a divided command, but his resolution was 
a committee instead of a man ; he saw the good prospects before 
Allenby in Palestine and the propagandist value of a victory there, 
but he did not realize that while battles were being won in the East 
the war might be lost for good in the West. There is much to 
be said in his justification. He had some reason for thinking 
that the British staffs were unimaginative and slow to revise their 
methods ; since, in common with these staffs, he did not foresee 
the new German battle plan, he might fairly argue that if a huge 
Allied superiority in the spring of 191 7 could not break the German 
front, no more could Germany's extra 300,000 rifles now win a 
decision. But he was clearly in fault in leaving Haig so grossly 
weak when the troops could have been provided. Here again 
it is right to distinguish. Mr. Lloyd George could not get troops 
from Britain in large numbers without raising the age limit ; he 
dared not do that while leaving Ireland exempt, and he was naturally 
averse to putting his hand into the Irish bramble bush. It is true 
that when the disaster came he followed the first of these courses 
with the complete assent of the nation ; but it may be doubted 



I 



I9I8] RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE DEFEAT 217 

whether that assent would have been given so readily without the 
spectacle of the Somme retreat to compel it. But there were troops 
to be got elsewhere, troops kept in Britain as security against a 
mythical invasion, troops with Allenby and in Salonika ; and the 
true charge against the Prime Minister is that when Haig's necessity 
was made plain, he did not discard the invasion whimsy, that 
he still flirted with Palestinian crusades, and did not do what he 
did later, and bring back every unit that could be spared from the 
Near East. Indirectly blessings flowed from the disaster. It gave 
us Foch, it hastened the coming of the American armies, it steeled 
a nation which had grown a little puzzled and apathetic. But in 
the five weeks from 21st March to the end of April our casualties 
amounted to over 300,000, or nearly double the losses in the thirty- 
four weeks of the Dardanelles campaign. The dead would not live 
again, and, though our recovery was miraculous, there was no need 
for so grievous a miracle. Had one half of the troops sent to France 
after the battle began been available for Haig before the 21st of 
March, the German thrust would have been parried at the start. 



CHAPTER XCIII 

THE BATTLE OF THE LYS 

April T - May 2"] , 1918 

The Lys Area — British and German Dispositions — Quast's Attack of 9th April 
— Armin's Attack of loth April — The Struggle for the Messines Ridge — 
Haig's Appeal to his Troops — Fall of Bailleul — The Fight for Mont Kem- 
mel — Close of Action — The Australians at Villers-Bretonneux — The 
Position of the Allies at the End of May. 

LuDENDORFF, brought to a standstill on the Somme, prepared to 
put into effect the second part of his plan — to attack the depleted 
British front in Flanders, and roll up their line from the north. He 
was uneasy because of the exposed left flank of his new salient, the 
point of which was Montdidier ; and he could not permit the battle 
to decHne into a stalemate, and so lose the initiative. His main 
purpose was unchanged, but he sought to achieve it by a new 
method. He would attack the British elsewhere, in a terrain 
where they were notoriously weak, and compel Foch to use up 
his reserves in defending it ; then, when these reserves had shrunk, 
he would strike again at the weakened door of Amiens. This new 
effort could not have the elan and fury of the first. He could not 
again key up his troops to that mood of assured victory in which 
they had named the 21st of March "Michael's Day" and looked 
for the enemy's destruction within a week. Eighteen days had 
now gone, and the Allied line still held. A second enterprise must 
be a fresh effort, without the aid of any momentum carried over 
from the first. But on Ludendorff's plan it was to be a strictly 
subsidiary operation, designed to prepare the way for his main 
task on the Somme. He proposed to allot only nine divisions for 
the initial stroke, and to choose a battle-ground where even a 
moderate force might obtain surprising results. 

218 



I9i8] THE LYS AREA 219 

That battle-ground was the area just north of the La Bass6e 
Canal, which Prince Rupprecht in the preceding December had 
proposed to make the scene of the main operation. The German 
Staff were aware that it had already been thinned to supply ten 
divisions for the fighting in the south, and it was at the moment 
weakly held, largely by troops exhausted in the Somme battle. 
Haig had drawn especially from it, because the section from La 
Bass6e to the Scarpe seemed to be more vital to the enemy's purpose, 
and because in the north it would be possible to give ground and 
retire behind certain inundated areas without putting the whole 
front in such peril as would attend a retreat from Vimy. But that 
northern section had many attractions for German eyes. It was 
far enough from the Amiens battle to put a heavy strain upon the 
Allied power of reinforcement. The Germans had the great city 
of Lille as a screen for their assembly. Certain nodal points of 
communication, like Hazebrouck, lay at no great distance behind 
the British front. Again, any advance there threatened the Channel 
ports, and might be expected to work havoc with British nerves. 
The one difficulty was the marshy land crisscrossed by dykes and 
canals, but the dry spring had done much to harden its water-logged 
soil. For a short, sharp thrust, calculated to confuse the Allied 
plans and absorb the Allied reserves, the place was well chosen. 
Above all, the British communications were bad, and the German 
were all but perfect. From Ostend to Douai and Cambrai ran a 
great double lateral line, served by many feeders from the east, 
and from Lille there rayed out a networkof auxiliary routes. Behind 
the British was only the railway from St. Pol by Bethune and 
Hazebrouck to Calais and Dunkirk, much of it only a single line, 
and some of it too near and most of it too remote from the front 
trenches. 

Ludendorff prepared his attack on a limited scale. Though 
the original nine divisions must be reinforced later, there was no 
intention of being drawn into a major action. His aim was to push 
through between La Bass6e and Armentieres, capture Bethune, 
and form a defensive flank along the Aire-La Bassee Canal. Then 
he would direct his main pressure north-west, aiming at the capture 
of Hazebrouck and the ridge of hills north of Bailleul. This would 
utterly dislocate the whole British front towards the coast, and 
compel a general retirement west of Dunkirk and the floods of the 
river Aa. The British would be forced to fight hard to meet 
the peril, which directly menaced Calais and Boulogne ; and when 
Foch had flung his last fresh troops into the breach, the time 



220 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [April 

would be ripe for the final thrust for Amiens and the sea. It was 
intended to be a battle for a sharply-defined, though ambitious, 
objective, and Ludendorff had assigned to it just as many divisions 
as he could spare without weakening his forces for the major opera- 
tion to follow. These divisions were not shock troops in the same 
sense as those which had attacked on the 2ist of March. 

The battle-ground, where we had fought incessantly during 
the first two years of the campaign, had certain clearly-marked 
physical features. The river Lys, less than a hundred feet wide, 
and with muddy banks and bottom, flows between Merville and 
Armentieres in a dead-flat plain. On the north bank are the Forest 
of Nieppe and the line of hills running east and west from north 
of Fletre to Kemmel and Wytschaete — obstacles to an enemy 
advance, but, once captured, strategic points which would dominate 
the land to the north and west. South of the stream flat and boggy 
meadows stretch for ten miles to the La Bassee Canal, with, on the 
east, the Aubers ridge which shelters Lille. Clearly, Bethune, a 
junction on the British lateral railway, must be captured as the 
first objective, for till that was done the left flank would not be 
secure for the drive north-westward across the Lys to Merville and 
Hazebrouck. 

The German army opposite this area was the VI., under Quast. 
Its right extended to the Lys, whence the IV. Army continued 
to the sea. The latter was under Sixt von Armin, who had 
resisted so stoutly at Passchendaele the autumn before, and he 
had as his chief of staff General von Lossberg, one of the ablest 
of German tacticians. Both armies were part of the group of the 
Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria. The immediate reserves 
were not large, but they could be speedily supplemented from Luden- 
dorff's mass of manoeuvre in the back areas. The British front 
from the sea to Arras was held by the Second Army, under Sir 
Herbert Plumer, and the First Army, under Sir Henry Home — 
the boundary between the two being the stream of the Lys. It 
will be remembered that as a result of the Third Battle of Ypres 
our line lay east of the Passchendaele heights, just west of Gheluvelt, 
and thence to the Lys, a mile or two west of Warneton, covering 
the Wytschaete-Messines ridge. It crossed the Lys two miles east 
of Armentieres, and then fell back sharply to the west, just covering 
Neuve Chapelle and Festubert, till it reached the La Bass6e Canal 
east of the slight rise at Givenchy. The front north of the Lys 
was strongly placed, though the Passchendaele salient might prove 
a source of weakness ; but on the south of the stream it had no 



I9i8] BRITISH DISPOSITIONS 221 

natural defences save the dykes and runlets, though the ruins of 
the many farms and cottages gave it numerous strong points. 
The 2nd Corps, under Sir C. W. Jacob, held the Passchendaele 
area, with, on its right, the 22nd Corps, under Sir A. J. Godley, 
Just north of the Lys, covering the Wytschaete ridge, was the 
9th Corps, under Sir A. Hamilton Gordon. On the left of the 
First Army were the 15th * Corps, under Sir J. P. Du Cane, and 
the nth Corps, under Sir R. C. Haking. Beyond the La Bassee 
Canal lay the ist Corps, under Sir Arthur Holland. The three 
corps directly threatened between Messines and La Bass6e had 
seven divisions in line — from left to right, the 9th, 19th, 25th, 
34th, 40th, 2nd Portuguese, and 55th. 

The British front in this area on 7th April was in the unstable 
condition which attends readjustment. The two Portuguese 
divisions had been during the whole winter in a bad section, and 
needed rest, and it had been arranged that their relief should be 
completed by the morning of loth April. But on the 7th only 
one of the Portuguese divisions had been withdrawn. Of the 
seven British divisions, all but the 55th had been gravely weakened 
in the retreat from St. Quentin, and the 9th especially had gone 
through some of the severest fighting of the battle. In support 
there were the 51st and 50th Divisions, but both of these had 
suffered the same ordeal, and were very tired. It should be remem- 
bered that, out of the fifty-eight divisions which represented Haig's 
total strength, forty-six had already been engaged in the southern 
battle. The Commander-in-Chief, who was aware that the enemy 
contemplated a stroke north of La Bass6e, was also aware of its 
purpose. He knew that the enemy's main force was still concen- 
trated east of Amiens, and he did not dare further to weaken that 
front. Moreover, Foch — the enemy attack having been checked 
on the Somme — was already planning a counterstroke. He pro- 
posed to take Micheler's Fifth Army out of the line in Champagne, 
and get Maistre's Tenth Army back from Italy, and he hoped to 
strike at once south of the river with the British on the left. Haig 
had no alternative but to wait till the enemy revealed himself, and 
to expect an attack in the north on a line held by depleted divisions. 

Sunday, the 7th April, was a mild spring day, with a thick 
fog in the morning hours. It passed quietly, but late in the evening 
an intense bombardment with gas shells began along the front 

* On the second day of the battle the 15th Corps was transferred to the 
Second Army. 



222 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [April 

between Lens and Armentieres. The latter town had been con- 
sistently shelled by the Germans since the beginning of the year, 
and was no longer used by our troops. The gas bombardment 
continued during the 8th, and at 4 a.m. on the morning of Tuesday, 
the 9th, a furious preparation commenced, in which gas was mingled 
with high explosives. At about 7 a.m. the full weight of the 
German infantry assault fell upon the 15th and nth Corps. The 
first to break was the 2nd Portuguese Division, which, stale from 
long inaction and indifferently led, was driven in at the first thrust. 
The flank of the 40th Division was turned, and the enemy streamed 
through the gap. The left of the 55th (West Lancashire) Division 
was also turned, and the confusion of the fog and the gas made it 
hard for those behind to know what was happening ; but the 
51st and 50th Divisions were at once moved up behind Richebourg 
St. Vaast and Laventie, and cavalry and cyclists were sent forward 
to cover their deployment. By 10.15 a.m. the enemy was more 
than a mile in rear of the right battalion of the 40th Division, and 
that division was gradually forced back to a line facing south 
from Bois Grenier by Fleurbaix to the Lys at Sailly. The whole 
centre had gone, though gallant machjne-gun posts continued 
to resist long after the Germans had swept past them. The 55th 
Division had swung back in the same way, and formed a defensive 
flank facing north between Festubert and Le Touret. From Le 
Touret to the Lys was the gap which the 50th and 51st Divisions 
were labouring to stop ; but the enemy progress had been so swift 
that we were forced out of all our prepared defences before we had 
the time to man them. 

The events of that mad day were so tangled that it is hard to 
present them in a clear narrative. Let us take the centre first. 
The 1st King Edward's Horse and the nth Cyclist Battalion 
managed to hold on for a time in Lacouture and Vieille Chapelle, 
and so enabled the 50th and 51st Divisions to take up position 
from Le Touret to Estaires along the east bank of the Lawe River, 
During the afternoon they were slowly forced towards the river 
crossings, and in the evening the Germans passed both streams 
at Estaires and Pont Riqueul, but were driven back again. When 
dark fell we still held the bridgeheads as far east as Sailly. In the 
north of the new salient the 40th Division had had a feverish day. 
Before noon the enemy reached the Lys below Estaires, and inter- 
vened between it and the 50th Division. This compelled the right 
of the 40th early in the afternoon to withdraw across the river 
at Bac St. Maur. Its centre and left, assisted by troops of the 



I9i8] THE 55TH DIVISION AT GIVENCHY 223 

34th Division, continued to hold a very bad line from the Lys to our 
old front north of Bois Grenier ; and the 12th Suffolks, though 
hopelessly outflanked, defended Fleurbaix till the evening. Mean- 
time the Germans followed hard on our heels at Bac St. Maur. 
They crossed the river there about three o'clock in the afternoon, 
and pushed north as far as Croix du Bac. There the reserve 
brigade of the 25th Division held them for the moment, but could 
not prevent them from establishing a strong position north of 
the river. 

Quast's advance had been cyclonic ; but something was still 
wanting to complete his success. Unless he captured B6thune 
forthwith he would be cramped into too narrow a gate. But the 
55th Division * did not yield, though outnumbered by four to 
one. It had retired its left flank, but it still covered Bethune, 
and its right at Givenchy stood like a rock. By noon the enemy 
had rushed the ruins ; in the afternoon the Lancashire men had 
recovered them ; in the evening they were again lost, and again 
in the night retaken. This splendid defence was the determining 
event of the first stage of the battle. It was due, said the official 
dispatch, "in great measure to the courage and determination 
displayed by our advanced posts. These held out with the utmost 
resolution though surrounded, pinning to the ground those parties 
of the enemy who had penetrated our defences, and preventing 
them from developing their attack. Among the many gallant 
deeds recorded of them, one instance is known of a machine gun 
which was kept in action although the German infantry had entered 
the rear compartment of the 'pill-box' from which it was firing, 
the gun team holding up the enemy by revolver fire from the inner 
compartment." 

All night there was intermittent fighting at the crossings of the 
Lawe and the Lys. Early on the morning of Wednesday, loth 
April, after a heavy bombardment, the enemy attacked at Lestrem 
and Estaires. He won the farther bank at both places, but was 
driven back by counter-attacks. All day the 50th Division was in 
action, and the streets of Estaires saw bitter machine-gun fighting. 
In the evening the town was lost, and the 50th Division retired 
to a position which had been hastily prepared to the north and 
west. East of Estaires the enemy enlarged the bridgehead he had 
won the night before, and forced the left of the 40th Division beyond 

* This was the division which had been driven in between Banteux and 
Vendhuile by the German counter-attack at Cambrai. Its performance now 
was its answer to its critics. 



224 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [April 

Steenwerck — an advance of nearly four miles. He was broaden- 
ing his salient by striking northward. 

Meantime a second German army had entered the battle. At 
5.30 a.m. Armin's infantry attacked north of the Lys from Fre- 
linghien as far as Hill 60. The outposts of the 25th and 19th 
Divisions were driven in, and during the morning, under cover 
of the fog, the enemy filtered into our battle positions from Ploeg- 
steert Wood to Messines, along the valleys of the Warnave and 
Douve streams. By noon he had taken Ploegsteert village and the 
south-east part of the wood, and had captured most of Messines, 
while farther north he had driven in our line as far as HoUebeke 
and was close on the crest of the Wytschaete ridge. In the after- 
noon, however, the 9th Division brought him to a standstill, and 
its South African Brigade * retook the crest of the Wytschaete 
ridge. This stand saved our northern wing, and gave us time to 
adjust our front to meet the grave situation at Ploegsteert. Armen- 
tieres was outflanked and clearly untenable, and during the after- 
noon the 34th Division, which held the place, retired to the left 
bank of the Lys, after destroying the bridges. The situation on 
the Wednesday evening was, therefore, as follows. The German 
line ran from Hollebeke, by Wytschaete and Messines, through the 
south-east corner of Ploegsteert Wood, west of Ploegsteert village, 
south of Nieppe, north of Steenwerck, north and west of Estaires, 
east of Lestrem, east of the Lawe River, Le Touret, and Givenchy. 
It was a narrow front for a great advance, for the British pillars 
at Givenchy and the Messines ridge were still standing. 

On Thursday, the nth, Quast and Armin, with fresh reserves, 
attacked on the whole front. The 55th Division was unshaken, 
but in the centre the line of the Lawe stream was lost. The night 
before the enemy had won a footing on the western bank half-way 
between Locon and Lestrem, and during the day he was able to 
enlarge his holding and push out westward. This made impossible 
the position of the 50th Division north and west of Estaires, and 
during the afternoon it was driven back towards Merville. The 
German masses, pressing on in close formation, had bulged out 
our front, and so lengthened the line to be held by the 50th. Gaps 
opened up through which the enemy pushed, and by 6 p.m. he was 
at Neuf Berquin, on the Estaires-Hazebrouck road, and, moving 
along the Lys, had entered Merville. Our front there was drawn 

* After Marri^res Wood this brigade had been reconstituted from reserves. 
It was a second time destroyed at the Battle of the Lys, and shrunk to a 
battalion, but it became a brigade again in August. 



1918] 9TH DIVISION ON WYTSCHAETE RIDGE 225 

back to the little stream of the Bourre just west of the town. 
Farther east the 40th Division was forced well north of Steenwerck ; 
but the 31st Division had arrived from the Somme, and, counter- 
attacking towards evening, recovered the villages of Le Verrier 
and La Becque. On their left the 34th Division was in serious 
danger. It was heavily attacked, and though it succeeded in 
holding Nieppe during the day, the pressure on the 25th Division 
from Ploegsteert left it in an untenable salient. That afternoon 
Messines was finally lost, but the 9th Division was still standing 
south of Hollebeke and on the Wytschaete ridge. Plumer decided 
to rearrange his front, and early in the night he relinquished Nieppe, 
retiring to the neighbourhood of Pont d'Achelles. This involved 
the retirement of the 25th and 19th Divisions to a front about 
1 ,000 yards east of Neuve Eglise and Wulverghem, and the abandon- 
ment of Hill 63. That night our front ran from Givenchy to Locon, 
west of Merville, west of Neuf Berquin, north of Steenwerck and 
Nieppe, east of Neuve Eglise and Wulverghem, west of Messines, 
and along the ridge j ust covering Wytschaete. The pillars still held . 

Up to now the enemy had not used more than sixteen divisions. 
But on the morning of Friday, the 12th, he began to throw in 
his reserves at a furious pace. Elated by his success, he turned 
what was meant as a secondary into a major operation, and dreamed 
of Boulogne and Calais. It was Ludendorff's second blunder, and 
it was fatal. The original plan had been conceived as a series of 
blows in different terrains, leading up to a final effort. His 
first mistake was made when, misled by Hutier's success, he tried 
to break through in a single action and take Amiens. Now came 
his second, when the lure of the Channel ports constrained him. 
He used his mass of manoeuvre in an area where he had to begin 
de novo, and where he could not directly aid the great central thrust 
on the Somme. He lost the advantage of the cumulative blow, 
and abandoned the assets which he had won. If it succeeded, it 
would be a new plan, different from the first ; if it failed, the first 
could only be resumed with impaired resources. Blindness seemed 
to have fallen for the moment on the German High Command — a 
blindness born of a too confident pride. It all but destroyed the 
British Army ; but it saved the Allied front, and in the long run 
gave them the victory. 

On Friday morning British reinforcements were arriving — 
the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 31st, 6ist, and ist Australian Divisions ; but 
they could only come gradually into line, and we had still to face 
most critical days. Just before dawn the enemy broke through 



226 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [April 

the left centre of the 51st Division near Pacaut, due south of Mer- 
ville, and less than two miles from the La Bassee Canal. But for 
the brilliant work of our batteries, the Germans might have crossed 
the canal ; and, as it was, they won a position on its eastern bank. 
The 3rd Division had now come up on the right of the 51st and 
the 6 1st Division on its left, and though both had been fighting 
for weeks south of Arras, they were able to steady the front between 
Locon and the Clarence river. At Merville itself, too, we held our 
ground ; but the weight of the fresh German troops was felt in 
the pressure north of the Lys. At 8 a.m. Quast attacked on the 
front between the Estaires-Hazebrouck road and Steenwerck, and, 
in spite of gallant work by the 29th Division, which had come up 
in support, drove in our line at Doulieu and La Becque, and created 
an ugly gap south-west of Bailleul. This let through bodies of the 
enemy, who seized Merris and Outtersteene, north of the railway. 
The Germans were pushing direct for Hazebrouck, and were now 
close on Bailleul station. It was a grave moment ; but in the 
evening any further advance was checked by a brigade of the 
33rd Division, which, with a miscellaneous assortment of other 
troops, filled the breach. On the left of the British front there was 
no change during the day. The 49th Division had come up on the 
right of the 34th, and these divisions and the 25th maintained 
the line south and south-east of Bailleul. The 19th and the 9th 
were still holding east of Wulverghem and Wytschaete, The 
result of the day had been that the enemy had curved out his 
front towards the north in a crescent, the maximum depth of 
which was about two miles. 

Saturday, 13th April, saw a resolute continuance of the German 
attacks. These were aimed at the weakly-held gap in front of 
Bailleul, the first step towards Hazebrouck, and at the British 
positions at Neuve Eglise and Wulverghem, which were the key 
of Mont Kemmel. In the first area the 29th and 31st Divisions, 
both seriously depleted, held a front of 10,000 yards. Behind 
them the 1st Australian Division was detraining, and it was im- 
perative that the front should hold till it could appear in line. 
On the west of the gap the 4th Guards Brigade had arrived and 
taken over a front of 4,000 yards. Here the Germans launched 
their main assault, and in the foggy morning they were able to 
bring field guns up to point-blank range. At first things went 
badly, and the village of Vieux Berquin fell. In the afternoon 
our line gave in parts, though outflanked garrisons continued to 
hold out to the end. For a moment it seemed as if the enemy 



I9i8] ARRIVAL OF RESERVES 227 

had a clear path before him; but the resistance of the wearied 
troops had given the Australians time to organize positions east 
of the great Forest of Nieppe. By the evening they had taken over 
the section, and the gate of Hazebrouck was shut. The British 
endurance throughout this desperate day had been beyond praise. 
"No more brilliant exploit," wrote the Commander-in-Chief, 
"has taken place since the opening of the enemy's offensive, though 
gallant actions have been without number." 

Meantime, In the second area the struggle was scarcely less 
bitter. Early on the Saturday morning the enemy forced his 
way into Neuve Eglise, but in the afternoon he was driven out 
by troops of the 33rd and 49th Divisions, while the 34th and the 
rest of the 33rd were engaged between Meteren and La Creche. 
In the evening the Germans won their way between La Creche and 
Neuve Eglise, and so outflanked the left of the 34th Division. We 
could not continue on such a line, so during the night the 34th 
withdrew to the high ground called the Ravelsberg, between 
Bailleul and Neuve Eglise, without hindrance from the enemy. 
That night the Germans were again in Neuve Eglise, and after much 
confused fighting it passed finally into their hands on the following 
day. 

The end of the week saw a slight stabilizing of the British 
front. The Germans had exhausted their first impetus, and, as 
had happened a fortnight before on the Somme, were pausing for 
breath. But the situation was still full of anxiety. The enemy 
had driven a great bulge into our line, which threatened two vital 
centres of our communications — B6thune, on the south, and 
Hazebrouck, on the north-west. He was on the edge, too, of the 
line of upland from Mont des Cats to Kemmel, which commanded 
all the northern plain toward the Channel. No French troops 
had yet appeared, for Foch showed himself as difficult to persuade 
of the gravity of the attack as P^tain had been on 21st March. 
He declined to take over any part of the British line, and would only 
agree to keep four French divisions in readiness if required. Then 
he dispatched the 2nd Cavalry Corps under General Robillet, but 
it was not till the 15th that two infantry divisions under Mitry 
began to arrive in the Lys area. All available British reserves 
were hurried up, but with all our efforts we could not be otherwise 
than outnumbered, and, since the fight had become a major opera- 
tion, we had to face continued drafts from the great German reserve. 
On the nth Haig issued an order of the day in which he appealed 
to his men to endure to the last. "There is no other course open 



228 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [April 

to us but to fight it out. Every position must be held to the last 
man ; there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall, 
and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight 
on to the end. The safety of our homes and the freedom of mankind 
depend alike upon the conduct of each one of us at this critical 
moment." The British Commander-in-Chief was not addicted to 
rhetorical speech, and these grave words from one so silent had a 
profound effect upon the army and the nation. No less solemn was 
Lieutenant-General Sir Arthur Currie's charge to his troops before 
they entered the battle. 

"Looking back with pride on the unbroken record of your glorious 
achievements, asking you to realize that to-day the fate of the British 
Empire hangs in the balance, I place my trust in the Canadian Corps, 
knowing that where Canadians are engaged there can be no giving way. 
Under the orders of your devoted officers in the coming battle you will 
advance or fall where you stand facing the enemy. 

"To those who fall I say, 'You will not die, but will step into 
immortality. Your mothers will not lament your fate, but will be 
proud to have borne such sons. Your names will be revered for ever 
and ever by your grateful country, and God will take you unto Him- 
self.' " 

On Sunday, the 14th, the struggle continued at Neuve Eglise, 
which fell ; at Bailleul and Merville, where our line was maintained ; 
and east of Robecq, where we improved our position and took 
prisoners. Next morning the 19th Division repelled an attack 
at Wytschaete, and late in the afternoon the battle flared up south 
of Bailleul. Three fresh German divisions, including part of the 
Bavarian Alpine Corps, attacked our front on the Ravelsberg, and 
after heavy fighting seized the east end of the ridge and worked 
their way westward. At seven in the evening they had the whole 
height, and Bailleul was doomed. We fell back to a line between 
M6teren and Dranoutre, and at 9 p.m. the Germans entered the 
town. Meantime, in order to delay any attack which the enemy 
might make in the north, we had begun to evacuate the Ypres 
salient. By the morning of the 13th the Passchendaele ridge was 
held only by outposts, and by the morning of the i6th the 2nd Corps 
had withdrawn approximately to the old position a mile east of the 
town from which the Third Battle of Ypres had started. Our front 
now ran along the Steenbeek stream, and by the Westhoek ridge to 
Wytschaete. This gave us a strong position, and enabled us to econ- 
omize men. The retreat was not disturbed ; but on the morning of 



I9i8] THE KEMMEL RANGE 229 

Tuesday, the i6th, our front at Wytschaete and Spanbroekmolen 
was attacked, with the result that the enemy captured botli places, 
and forced us back to a line south of Lindenhoek. That day, 
too, he secured a footing in M6teren. The first French troops 
had now arrived, and by a counter-attack that evening they regained 
Meteren, while the 9th Division temporarily reoccupied part of 
Wytschaete. But it was not for long, and by the morning of the 
17th the enemy held both villages. This meant that the northern 
pillar of our defence had gone, for we were now everywhere off 
the ridge, and the time had come for Armin to advance on Mont 
Kemmel. 

We may pause to consider the nature of the phase into which 
the battle had now developed. The enemy had definitely set 
himself to secure a decision in this area, and his immediate aim 
was, by the capture of Bethune, Hazebrouck, and the Kemmel 
range, to drive Haig back to a front pivoting upon Arras, and run- 
ning to the sea by St. Omer and the line of the river Aa. Such a 
front would have been strong so far as natural defences went, but 
it would have produced certain unpleasant consequences for the 
British Command. Dunkirk would be in the enemy's hands, and 
he would be many miles nearer the Narrows of the Channel. He 
would be only some ten miles distant from Calais, and could render 
that port useless with his big guns. The British would have no 
good lateral communications except those passing along the coast. 
A new and awkward salient would be created at Arras, and the 
Vimy ridge would probably become untenable. Finally, the 
British would be desperately circumscribed in the area left them 
to manoeuvre in, and any fresh German advance would mean the 
loss of the Channel ports. 

To effect this design, Ludendorff had to secure certain immediate 
objectives. The first was Bethune ; the second was the Kemmel 
range, which would give him Hazebrouck, for the direct advance 
on that town by way of Merville presented difficulties. There 
was a third objective, which, if attained, would give him all he 
desired. This was an advance north of the Ypres salient, which 
would turn the Kemmel range and drive the 2nd Corps and the 
Belgians in confusion through narrow necks of retreat with a great 
loss in men and guns. Five more divisions had arrived from 
Russia, giving the Germans a total of 204 in the West, as against 
166 of the Allies. It was true that 128 had been engaged in heavy 
fighting since 21st March, and that of these sixty had been em- 
ployed twice and ten thrice; but Ludendorff had still twenty-two 



230 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [April 

fresh divisions in reserve, and many of those which he had with- 
drawn under his system of roulement were now sufficiently rested 
to return to the line. It was all in flat defiance of his old plan, 
and was fatally mortgaging the resources for his future strategy ; 
but that was small comfort to the British army, now worn to 
a shadow by a month's struggle against preposterous odds. 

The next two days were in some ways the most critical of the 
whole battle. The enemy had reached his greatest strength, and 
the British troops were not yet reinforced at any point within 
sight of security. On the morning of Wednesday, the 17th, Armin 
launched his attack north of the Ypres salient against the Belgians 
astride the Ypres-Staden railway. On a front of 4,000 yards 
he used twenty-one battalions, drawn principally from the 58th 
Saxon, the 6th Bavarian, and the 2nd Naval Divisions — all troops 
of proved quality. It began at 8.30 a.m. without any preliminary 
bombardment, and at the first shock the Belgian line was pierced 
at one point, and bodies of the enemy pressed through towards 
Bixschoote. But the Belgian reinforcements struck in upon the 
right flank of the advance, drove it into marshy ground, and com- 
pletely defeated it. Over 700 prisoners were taken, and some 2,000 
Germans were killed — an exploit greatly' to the credit of troops 
who had lived for long in a stagnant and difficult section, and, so far, 
the most successful counterstroke in the Lys battle. The same 
morning Armin's left assaulted the wooded slopes of Kemmel, 
for the possession of theWytschaete ridge now gave him observation 
over all the country to the west. At the same time strong subsidiary 
attacks were made in the Meteren and Merris area. After an 
intense bombardment the German infantry advanced with great re- 
solution from their new positions at Neuve Eglise and Wulverghem. 
They were repulsed at all points with heavy losses by the 34th, 
49th, and 19th Divisions. At M6teren and Merris they fared no 
better, for the 33rd and 1st Australian Divisions stood firm on 
that front. The first two of the German plans had been foiled. 

But next day, Thursday, the i8th, came a more serious threat^ 
this time on the southern flank of the salient towards Bethune. 
After a long bombardment, Quast attacked on almost the whola 
front between Merville and Givenchy. The enemy in previous 
fighting had gained the eastern bank of the La Bass6e Canal, at 
the point where it is crossed by the road from Hinges to Merville, 
and on the night of the 17th he took the village of Riez du Vinage. 
Between that point and Givenchy he had six divisions of assault, 
and at the Hinges bridge he was massed to the extent of nine or 



I9i8] ATTACK ON MONT KEMMEL 231 

ten bayonets to the yard. His first attempt, made just at dawn, 
was to reach the canal bank on a broad front ; but his troops were 
mown down by the fire of our batteries on the other side, directed 
by observation from the Httle mound of Bernenchon. In his 
second attempt he came down the Merville road, reached the canal, 
and launched his pontoons. But he never crossed. The fire 
of the 4th Division broke up his troops into something Hke a rout, 
and before the dayHght had fully come the enterprise had failed 
utterly, with immense slaughter. It was for the Germans the most 
futile and costly incident of the battle. 

At Robecq there was an attack by one division, easily repulsed 
by the 6ist, and at Givenchy an attempt by no less than three. 
The latter was for the time a critical affair, and some of our advance 
posts changed hands many times during the day. The pillar, 
however, stood firm, and by the evening the 1st Division had 
recovered every yard of ground that had been lost. This action 
was the end of the first and principal phase of the battle, and so 
severely had the Germans suffered in the past two days that for 
nearly a week quiet reigned on our front. We were able to improve 
our position by local counter-attacks at Festubert and between 
the Lawe and Clarence rivers, and to relieve some of the divisions 
which had suffered most. The French had already come into 
line about Meteren and Spanbroekmolen, and by the morning 
of Sunday, the 21st, had taken over the whole section between 
these points, which was the front of assault against Mont 
Kemmel.* 

There were signs about this time that Ludendorff's mind was 
growing anxious about his main offensive on the Somme. The 
attack on Villers Bretonneux, which we shall presently consider, 
was clearly meant as a preparation for the final movement on Amiens. 
The Allies had added to their total strength by bringing troops 
from Britain, from Italy, and from Egypt; but these did little 
more than replace the month's heavy wastage. Nine British 
divisions had been reduced to cadres, and the number of fighting 
divisions left was only fifty-one. Foch had already used up part 
of his mass of manoeuvre, and the Germans had at the moment a 

* Since 2 1st March the British Army had engaged alone 79 German divi- 
sions, the French alone 24, and 23 divisions had been engaged by both French 
and British. Of the British 79, 28 had been fought twice and i thrice ; of the 
French 24, 4 had been fought twice ; of the joint 23, 15 had been engaged twice 
and I thrice. The British had therefore had 109 fights with German divisions 
alone, and the French 28 alone. Taking all the engagements together, the 
British had had 149, and the French 68 fights with German divisions. 



232 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [April 

numerical superiority of considerably over a quarter of a million 
men. It was beyond doubt the part of wisdom for Ludendorfif 
to break off the battle on the Lys and use his still formidable reserve 
to secure a decision in the main area. But it is a characteristic 
of strategical blunders that they compel their authors to pursue 
them to their last consequences, and make it impossible for them 
to retrace their steps. LudendorfT had dipped too deeply in the 
north to withdraw easily. He had incurred huge losses without 
gaining any real strategical objective, and he could not bring 
himself to write off these losses without another effort to pluck 
the fruit which was so near his grasp. Accordingly he continued 
the northern fight, and struck again for Mont Kemmel — the iso- 
lated eastern outlier of the range behind Bailleul. If the Germans 
secured it they would broaden their comfortless salient and win 
direct observation over the northern plain. They would make our 
front at Ypres, if not untenable, at least insecure, and they would 
prepare the way for an advance westward along the ridge to Haze- 
brouck. An attack there at the moment had one special attraction 
for them, for adjacent to Kemmel was the junction of the British 
and French lines, which they regarded as the weakest spot in the 
front. The French lay from the Messines-'Kemmel road, half-way 
between Kemmel and Wytschaete, to the neighbourhood of St. 
Jans Cappelle, with, on their left, the British 9th Division, and on 
their right the 1st Australian. From left to right their troops were 
the 28th, 154th, 34th, and 133rd Divisions. 

On the morning of Thursday, 25th April, seventeen days since 
the battle began, the enemy violently bombarded the whole front 
from Meteren to the Ypres-Comines Canal. At 5 a.m. he attacked 
with nine divisions, five of which were fresh. His aim was to 
capture Kemmel by a direct assault on the French, and by a simul- 
taneous attack upon the British south of Wytschaete to turn their 
flank and separate the two forces. At first he succeeded. At ten 
in the morning he had worked his way round the lower slopes, 
driven in the French 28th Division, and taken Kemmel village 
and the hill itself, though isolated French troops still held out 
in both places. In the British area the 9th and 49th Divisions 
were heavily engaged west of Wytschaete. Before midday the right 
of the 9th was driven back to Vierstraat, but we still retained 
the Grand Bois on the slopes north of Wytschaete village. In 
the afternoon the 21st Division, farther north, was also attacked, 
and by the evening the whole line in this area had been forced back 
to positions running from Hill 60 by Voormezeele and north of 



I9i8] RETIREMENT TO YPRES SALIENT 233 

Vierstraat to the hamlet of La Clytte, on the Poperinghe-Kemmel 
road, where we linked up with the French. 

By next morning supports had arrived, and an attempt was 
made to recapture the lost ground. The 25th Division, along with 
elements of the 21st and 49th Divisions, re-entered Kemmel village, 
but found themselves unable to maintain it against flanking fire 
from the northern slopes of the hill, since the French had been 
unable to advance. Then followed the second wave of the German 
assault. It failed to make ground owing to the gallant resistance 
of the 49th Division, and of the 21st, 30th, 39th, and 9th Divisions, 
all four of which had been fighting for five weeks without rest. 
That afternoon the French recaptured Locre, on the saddle between 
Kemmel Hill and the heights to the west. Our line in that quarter 
now ran just below the eastern slopes of the Scherpenberg, east of 
Locre, and thence south of St. Jans Cappelle to Meteren. The loss 
of Kemmel and the threat to Voormezeele made it necessary to 
adjust our front in the Ypres salient. Accordingly that night we 
withdrew to a line running from Pilkem to Voormezeele by way 
of Wieltje and the west end of the Zillebeke lake. 

In the afternoon of the 27th the Germans captured Voormezeele, 
but were driven out by a counter-attack early in the night. On 
the 28th the French were heavily in action around Locre, but 
there was no material change in the situation. On the morning 
of Monday, 29th April, after an intense bombardment, the enemy 
attacked the French and British positions from west of Dranoutre 
to Voormezeele. The Allied front at the moment ran around the 
eastern base of Mont Rouge, just covering Locre, across the low 
saddle of the range to the meadows in front of La Clytte, and 
thence by Voormezeele to the Ypres-Comines Canal. The British 
right was in the neighbourhood of the cross-roads which we called 
Hyde Park Corner, on the saddle between the Scherpenberg and 
Mont Rouge. There lay the 25th Division as far as the little 
stream which runs from Kemmel to the Dickebusch lake. On its 
left was the 49th Division as far as Voormezeele, and beyond 
it the 2 1st Division to the canal. The enemy made three main 
assaults — first against the French, to carry Locre and Mont Rouge; 
the second at the junction of the French and the 25th Division, 
aimed at turning the Scherpenberg; and the third between the 
49th and 2 1st Divisions, to turn the obstacle called Ridge Wood. 
The infantry attack was launched at 5 a.m. in a dense mist by 
at least eleven divisions — six against the French, and five against 
the British. It was delivered in mass formation, the density being 



234 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [May 

from six to eight bayonets to the yard. At first by its sheer weight 
it succeeded. The Germans entered Locre, and even reached 
Hyde Park Corner, which all but gave them their objective. Then 
came the French counterstroke, which completely checked them, 
and drove them back at points nearly a mile beyond the line from 
which they had started. On the British front no ground was gained 
at all. The three divisions in line, with the assistance of troops 
of the 30th and 39th Divisions, not only stood firm, but in some 
cases advanced to meet the oncoming Germans and drove them 
back with the bayonet. A second attack at 6 a.m. was equally 
disastrous. At the end of the day Locre remained in Gerrnan 
hands, but it was retaken by the French the following morning. 
Farther north the Belgians had been attacked on the Ypres-Staden 
railway, but had repulsed the enemy with the same vigour that 
they had shown on the 17th. The result of this action was a 
complete and most costly German repulse. The enemy attacked 
with some 80,000 men, and his casualties were at least a quarter 
of his strength. 

The fight of 29th April was the last episode in the Battle of 
the Lys. Thereafter there were only local actions. On ist May 
the French made a slight advance north-east of Locre. On the 
night of 3rd May the British improved their position north-east 
of Hinges. On the 4th the enemy opened an intense bombardment 
between M6teren and Ypres, which, aswelearned later, was intended 
as a preparation for a serious attack. But the weather interfered, 
and still more our counter-bombardment. On the 8th an attack 
between Voormezeele and La Clytte was easily repulsed. On the 
night of loth May, and on the nth, the French gained ground 
in the Kemmel area, and on the night of the 12th we made a success- 
ful gas attack on the Lens-La Bassee front. On the 19th we 
straightened out a slight salient north-west of Merville. On the 
27th the French between Locre and Voormezeele were attacked by 
four divisions, but the little ground they lost was recovered on the 
following morning. By that day the centre of gravity had moved 
from the Lys and the Somme to the Aisne. 

It remains to record the events of these weeks in the Amiens 
area. During the Battle of the Lys the British had had to face 
there only local attacks directed mainly at Hangard, where the 
Fourth Army linked up with the French. On the morning of 
24th April, however, the enemy attacked the Fourth Army with 
four divisions on the line between the Somme and the Ancre. His 



THE BATTLE OF THE LYS. 




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2 1 

fc 



1918] THE ACTION AT VILLERS-BRETONNEUX 235 

bombardment began at 3.30 a.m., and at 6.30, under cover of fog, 
the new German tanks broke through our line south-east of Villers- 
Bretonneux. His aim was to secure the high ground between the 
Somme and the Luce as a base for a movement against Amiens. 
For the first and only time he found his tanks of value, and it was by 
their aid that he opened the way to the village. Villers-Bretonneux 
fell, but the advance was checked at the wood to the west by a 
counter-attack of the 8th Division. South of the village our 
heavy tanks destroyed or dispersed the enemy's tanks advancing 
on Cachy. 

At 10 p.m. that night came the British counter-attack, con- 
ducted by a mixed brigade of the i8th and 58th Divisions and 
two brigades of the 4th and 5th Australians. That the counter- 
stroke should have been so prompt showed the resource and vigilance 
of the British Command. The Australians cut their way through 
thick belts of wire, and advanced with complete certainty over 
country which had not been previously reconnoitred. At daybreak 
on the 25th Villers-Bretonneux was all but surrounded, and during 
the morning troops of the 8th Division fought their way through 
its streets. That afternoon it was wholly in our hands, together 
with 1 ,000 prisoners. One episode deserves to be specially remem- 
bered. Seven of our "whippet" tanks, debouching from north of 
Cachy, attacked the enemy on the ridge between Villers-Bretonneux 
and Hangard wood. The ridge was held by machine-gun groups 
in shell-holes, while on the eastern slopes three German battalions 
were forming up in the open for attack. The "whippets" moved 
from shell-hole to shell-hole, annihilating the machine-gun groups, 
and then proceeded to disperse the infantry. One was destroyed 
by shell fire ; the others returned with a total casualty list of five. 
It was a wonderful performance, for the "whippets" left their 
base, three and a half miles from the seat of action, after 11 a.m., 
and were home before 3 p.m., having fought over a distance of ten 
miles. Twenty men with five casualties to themselves had inflicted 
losses of 400 on the enemy, and completely broken up a German 
brigade. It was a triumphant proof of the value of the light tank 
in a counter-offensive. 

This brilliant affair seemed to damp the enemy's ardour on the 
Somme. During May there was little to record. On the night 
of the 5th, and again on the night of the 7th, we advanced our 
line south-west of Morlancourt, between the Somme and the Ancre. 
On the 14th the enemy attacked the new front without success. 
Meantime, the French on the 9th had captured the park at Grivesnes, 



236 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [May 

north-west of Montdidier, and on the nth had repulsed an attack 
south-west of Mailly-Raineval. On the 14th they advanced south 
of Hailles, and secured a wood on the west bank of the Avre. On 
the 19th the 2nd AustraUans took Ville-sur-Ancre, and improved 
their front in the angle of the two rivers. The German quiescence 
in May was more marked on the Amiens front than even in the 
north. 

The Battle of the Lys was for the enemy a tactical success but 
a strategic failure. He achieved no one of his principal aims, 
and in the struggle he weakened his chances of a future offensive 
by squandering some of his best reserves. By the end of April 
he had employed in that one northern area thirty-five fresh divisions 
and nine which had been already in action. These troops were the 
cream of his army, and could not be replaced. Moreover, an odd 
feature had appeared in the last stages of the Lys battle. The 
Germans seemed to have forgotten their tactics of infiltration, and 
to have fallen back upon their old methods of mass and shock. 
For the weakness of the new tactics was becoming clear. They 
could be used only with specially trained troops and with fresh 
troops ; they put too great a strain updn wearied divisions and 
raw levies ; therefore, as the enemy's losses grew, his tactics would 
deteriorate in the same proportion. There were other signs of 
stress. The 1919 class had been long ago absorbed in the line, 
and there was evidence that the 1920 class, the last resource of 
Germany's manhood, was beginning to appear in the field depots. 

Nevertheless, at the close of May the immediate strength of 
the Allies was still far inferior to that of the Germans. They had 
on their whole front 168 divisions, and the enemy had 208. He had 
a reserve of at least eighty divisions which he could use for a new 
blow. The Americans were arriving ; but it would be two months 
yet before, by normal calculations, they could make any notable 
difference in the battle. Foch had expended much of his reserve, 
and the British army, actively engaged for nine weeks, was very 
tired. A new blow was impending, but the exact terrain was hard 
to guess. There were signs of a revival of the battle on the Lys. 
There was the continuing threat to Amiens. Much pontoon and 
bridging material had been brought to Flanders from Russia, and 
it looked as if another attempt might be made to turn the Allied 
flank on the Yser. From Italy, too, came news that the omens 
pointed to a great Austrian attack astride the Brenta, and it was 
reasonable to assume that Germany might assist in the operations. 



I9i8] FOCH'S PROBLEMS 237 

Lastly, there was the dangerous southern flank of the main Western 
salient, where an assault had been anticipated before 21st March. 
Foch had no easy problem before him. With heroic parsimony 
he must nurse his scanty reserves, and at the same time be prepared 
to face at any moment a new assault in any one of four sections of 
his long front. The darkest clouds of March and April had dispersed ; 
but the air was still heavy with doubt, and the issues of the battle 
were still uncertain. It is such a season that tries the nerves of a 
general far more highly than a fight against odds. After his fashion 
he was devising an offensive — by the French to disengage the 
Amiens-Paris railway ; by the British to clear the B^thune and 
Ypres areas. But he was also ready to meet a fresh German assault, 
which he believed might come between Arras and Montdidier. The 
May days passed in a tense expectancy, and then, in the last week 
of the month, the doubt was resolved. For very early on the morn- 
ing of the 27th the storm broke on the Chemin des Dames ; by the 
evening the French gains in three great actions had vanished like 
smoke, and the enemy was across the Aisne. On the second day 
he was beyond the Vesle, and on the third his vanguard was looking 
down from the heights of the Tardenois on the waters of the Marne. 



CHAPTER XCIV 

THE WAR AT SEA: ZEEBRUGGE AND OSTEND 
October 17, igiy-May 10, 1918 

The Control of the Submarine Peril — America's Naval Co-operation — Last 
Fight of the Goeben and the Breslau — Sir Roger Keyes's Plan — The Attack 
on Zeebrugge — The Attack on Ostend — Paralysis of German Fleet. 

The spring of 191 7 had been the most critical period of the war, 
graver even than that stage we have just chronicled when the 
enemy stood at the gate of Amiens, for in April 191 7 Germany 
seemed to have devised a weapon which the Allies could not parry 
and which struck straight at their heart. Their shipping was fast 
disappearing from the seas, and with it the sustenance of the 
British people and the munitionment of all the Allied armies. 
In that month there was food enough in Britain to last the civilian 
population six weeks and no more. Could Germany have realized 
earlier that marvellous chance, and have been in the position to keep 
more U-boats constantly at work on the great shipping routes, she 
would have sunk in a single month not 850,000 tons, but 2,000,000 
tons, and would have had the victory before the close of the 
year. 

By the spring of 1918 the submarine menace was conclusively 
broken — broken at sea, without regard to the fortunes of the enemy 
by land. Partly it was done by weapons of offence — the destroyer, 
the decoy ship, the airplane, the bomb, and the depth-charge. 
All these we have already seen at work, but by now two other 
foes of the U-boat had declared themselves. One was the Allied 
submarine ; there were only some hundred of them, but they sank 
twenty U-boats, and had therefore the best average.* The other 

* The 500 Allied destroyers sank 34 U-boats ; the Allied auxiliary patrol 
craft, about 3,000 in number, sank 31, 

238 



I9I7] THE U-BOAT CAMPAIGN 239 

was the American sub-chaser — little wooden vessels, displacing 
only 60 tons and manned by young men fresh from college. These 
tiny craft crossed the Atlantic under their own power in the face 
of fierce winter gales, and in the English and Irish Channels and 
at the mouth of the Adriatic by means of their listening devices 
located and hunted many U-boats to their doom. Partly the 
defeat was due to Allied methods of defence — the dazzle ship, the 
barrage, and the convoy. In November 1917 the American navy 
set to work to lay a barrage of mines across the 250 miles of the 
passage between Scotland and Norway. By the early summer of 
1918 that barrage was at work, and the terror which it inspired 
in German submarine crews was in all likelihood a contributory 
cause of the mutinous spirit spreading in the German navy. 
As for the convoy system, it was the greatest single weapon which 
the Allies discovered. By the end of the war 607 homeward-bound 
convoys had been brought in, numbering 9,300 ships, and of these 
only 73 had been lost ; there had been 527 outward-bound convoys, 
with 7,300 ships, and 45 losses; the total loss was therefore 118 
ships, or .7 per cent. Much of this success was due to the superb 
courage of our merchant seamen, of whom 15,000 lost their lives. 
"No calculation in any shipping and supply programme included a 
margin for the human factor. Even when vessels unarmed and 
without wireless were required to proceed unescorted to waters 
infested with submarines, crews were always available and willing 
to sail."* 

So much for the prevention of losses. There was also the 
positive side, the increase of mercantile tonnage, and its more 
economical handling, and here the civilian played a not less valuable 
part than the sailor. By the end of 1917 Britain, France, and 
Italy had at their disposal a mercantile marine of 18,000,000 tons 
as compared to 24,500,000 before the war, and of this reduced 
tonnage 5,500,000 had to be employed in direct war service. In the 
first quarter of 191 8 the excess of losses over new construction was 
280,000 tons; in the second quarter, there was a gain for construc- 
tion of 283,000 tons, and in the third quarter a gain of 468,000 tons. 
In Britain by the end of 191 7 there was a fairly scientific control 
of supplies, the various demands having been grouped under 
central authorities like the War Office and the Ministry of Muni- 
tions, so that the Ministry of Shipping in allotting transport had not 
to deal with a host of scattered specialists. The next step was to 
group the various national controls together and to give them an 



240 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [March 

international character. This was done by the formation of 
international committees (on wheat, sugar, oils, etc.), and by the 
creation in the beginning of 191 8 of an Allied Maritime Transport 
Council — the most useful fruit of the Paris Conference of Novem- 
ber 191 7. The new Council entered on its duties in the dark days of 
March 1918, and did invaluable work in allotting tonnage on sound 
principles, and preventing strife between the Allies over such 
questions as coal and foodstuffs, munitions and raw materials. 
It had no tonnage under its direct order except some 500,000 tons 
of chartered neutral shipping, but its recommendations were 
accepted by the various national governments. Beginning as an 
advisory body, it soon became in practice a vast and powerful 
executive. 

The result of these and other measures was that in 19 18 the 
Allies were amply confirmed in their command of the seas. The 
blockade of Germany was drawn tighter, for with American assist- 
ance the agreements with northern neutrals were made more drastic, 
and Germany, in spite of Russian supplies, was back in the position 
of 1916. The Allied naval strength had also increased. Britain 
had added, or was adding, to her Grand Fleqt her new battle-cruisers 
of the Renown class, which were capable of a speed of over 30 knots, 
as well as the battleships now completed from the 1913-14 pro- 
gramme. The United States sent a squadron of dreadnoughts to 
Scapa — the New York, the Wyoming, the Florida, the Delaware, 
the Arkansas, and the Texas; and three others — the Nevada, the 
Oklahoma, and the Utah to Berehaven, in Ireland, in case a 
German battle-cruiser should slip out and attack her troop convoys. 

The events of the winter at sea had not been many. The loss 
of a convoy of eleven vessels in the North Sea on October 17, 19 17, 
had been followed by the destruction on nth December in the 
same waters of a convoy of fourteen. On the evening of 3rd 
November there was a brilliant little action in the Kattegat, where 
we sank a German auxiliary cruiser and ten patrol boats. On 17th 
November our light cruisers were in action in the Heligoland Bight, 
and two enemy ships were damaged. On January 14, 191 8, late in 
the evening, Yarmouth suffered her third bombardment from the 
sea. In the last week of that month the south end of the Darda- 
nelles witnessed a curious affair. About 5.30 a.m. on Sunday, 20th 
January, the British destroyer Lizard, being at the moment off 
the north-east point of Imbros, discovered the German cruiser 
Breslau, with the Goeben a mile astern, making for the harbour 



I9i8] END OF GOEBEN AND BRESLAU 241 

where British monitors were lying all unprepared. She engaged 
the enemy at a range of 1 1 ,000 yards, and came under heavy fire, so 
that she was unable to get within torpedoing distance. Another 
destroyer, the Tigress, came to her aid, and the two attempted to 
shield the monitors by smoke screens. But their efforts were in 
vain, and the monitors Raglan and M 28 were speedily sunk, 
before the former could get her 14-inch American guns into action. 
The enemy then turned south, followed by the Lizard and the 
Tigress, and at 7 a.m. the Breslau ran into a minefield, struck several 
mines, and promptly sank. Four Turkish destroyers appeared, 
accompanied by an old cruiser, and these the Lizard and the Tigress 
engaged and drove up the straits. The Goehen continued southward 
till she found the attentions of our aircraft unpleasant, when she 
put about to return. In the act she struck a mine, which made her 
settle down aft and gave her a list of some fifteen degrees. The 
Turkish destroyers returned to protect her, and she managed to 
creep inside the straits, followed by the Lizard and the Tigress, 
and assiduously bombed by British seaplanes. Her captain ran 
her ashore in the Narrows to the west of Nagara Point, where she 
lay for some days under the menace of our aircraft, till she was 
eventually tinkered up and refloated. 

The opening of the German offensive on 21st March had been 
attended by the bombardment of Dunkirk from the sea. Mean- 
time, a plan had been maturing to get rid of the intolerable menace 
presented by the use of the Flanders ports as German bases. A 
year before Jellicoe had declared his hope that the problem of the 
Belgian coast was not insoluble ; and a new man had appeared 
who had the Elizabethan tradition of inspired audacity. Sir Roger 
Keyes had been the most trusted of Sir Rosslyn Wemyss's lieu- 
tenants in the Dardanelles campaign, and, like his leader, he inter- 
preted generously the limits of what was possible for the British 
sailor. His appointment, first to the Plans department of the 
Admiralty, and then, in succession to Admiral Bacon, to the com- 
mand of the Dover Patrol, augured well for a new phase of 
initiative and daring. The strategical importance of closing up 
Zeebrugge and Ostend was patent. There nested the German 
destroyer flotillas which raided the Narrow Seas and occupied most 
of the time of the Dover Patrol. Our chief weapon against the 
U-boat was the destroyer, and the presence of German craft in 
these ports withdrew a large number of British destroyers from the 
anti-submarine campaign. Could Zeebrugge and Ostend be put 
out of action, the German naval base would be pushed back three 



242 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [April 

hundred miles to Emden, and the British east coast ports would 
become the natural bases from which to deal with the attacks by 
enemy surface craft on the Channel. It would not cut off the main 
bases of the U-boats, but it would release the forces of the Dover 
Patrol to hunt them down, and it would facilitate the construction 
of a new Channel mine barrage. 

A plan had been under consideration since November 1917, 
and the advent of Sir Roger Keyes brought it rapidly to completion. 
Its purpose was to block the end of the Bruges Canal at Zeebrugge 
and the entrance of Ostend harbour — an operation such as in the 
Spanish-American War Lieutenant Hobson had attempted at 
Santiago. To understand the details it is necessary to examine 
the topography of the two places. 

Zeebrugge is not a port so much as the sea end of the Bruges 
Canal, and in the canal the enemy submarines found perfect har- 
bourage. Its mouth was flanked by two short piers or sea walls 
with a lighthouse at the end of each, and half a mile up the canal 
were the lock gates. A large mole had been built in a curve to the 
west of the channel — a mole about eighty yards wide and a mile 
long. At the land end, to allow for the flow of the tide, there were 
five hundred yards of viaduct on piles.' The Mole, as the vital 
defence of the harbour, had a normal garrison of a thousand men, 
and bristled with artillery and machine guns, while all the coast was 
studded with long-range heavy pieces. On the Mole were the rail- 
way station and many newly built sheds for military and naval 
stores. The Ostend harbour was less elaborate. It was also the 
mouth of a canal to Bruges, but there was no mole as a flank guard. 
The problem for Sir Roger Keyes in both cases was to sink ships 
inside the canal, so that, aided by the silt of the tides, they should 
block the entrance. It is no light task to clear an obstruction 
from a Channel port ; about Christmas 1916 a rice-laden tramp 
sank in Boulogne harbour, and shut the place for a month. Could 
the operation be achieved the results were certain ; but, in view 
of the strong defence, it seemed a desperate adventure, especially 
among the intricacies of Zeebrugge. 

As it turned out, Ostend was the more difficult problem, for the 
very complexity of its safeguards made Zeebrugge vulnerable. 
The plan at Ostend was simply to get ships into the harbour and sink 
them far enough in tp do the maximum of damage. It was a feat 
depending on secrecy and dash. At Zeebrugge the scheme was 
more elaborate. Three cruisers packed with concrete were to get 
as near the lock gates as possible before being sunk. To create 



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I9I81 THE ZEEBRUGGE OPERATIONS 243 

a diversion, other vessels were to attack the Mole from its sea 
side and land men to engage the enemy garrison and prevent the 
guns there being used against the block-ships. At the same time, 
by means of a submarine laden with explosives, it was proposed 
to blow up the viaduct, which would isolate the German garrison 
on the Mole. The Zeebrugge attack was, therefore, planned in 
three stages — the attack on the Mole, the simultaneous attack on 
the viaduct, and the later entry of the block-ships into the canal 
mouth.* 

Twice Sir Roger Keyes's flotilla started, and twice it put back 
to port. It needed special weather conditions for success — an 
overcast sky, a drift of haze, a light wind, and a short sea. On 
Monday, 22nd April, the eve of St. George's Day, the omens were 
favourable, and in the late afternoon, three hours before sunset, 
the expedition started, timed to reach Zeebrugge by midnight. 
It was a singular Armada. There were five old cruisers to act 
as block-ships — the Intrepid, Iphigenia, and Thetis for Zeebrugge, 
and the Brilliant and the Sirius for Ostend. A small cruiser, the 
Vindictive (5,600 tons, with a broadside of six 6-inch guns), was 
designed for the attack on the Mole, assisted by two Liverpool 
ferry-boats, the Daffodil and the Iris. There was also a flotilla 
of monitors, motor launches, and fast coastal motor boats for special 
purposes. Admiral Tyrwhitt's destroyers from Harwich covered 
the operations from the north, and there were present light covering 
forces from the Dover Patrol. The operations were commanded 
by Sir Roger Keyes in the destroyer Warwick, and he had also 
with him the destroyers North Star and Phcebe. The men for the 
block-ships and the landing-parties were bluejackets and marines, 
picked from a great number who had volunteered for the work. 
They were armed as for a land battle, with grenades and flame- 
throwers as well as rifles and bayonets ; the Vindictive carried 
machine guns, Stokes mortars, and howitzers ; and elaborate 
preparations had been made for the creation of an artificial fog 
to cover the attack. 

It was a prodigious hazard to approach a hostile coast where 
navigation was difficult at the best of times, without lights, without 
knowledge of what new minefields the enemy might have laid, 
and at the mercy of a change in the weather which would expose 
the little fleet to every gun on the Flanders shore. There was 

* In the expedition to Ostend in 1798, under Captain H. R. Popham, R. N., 
troops were landed under General Eyre Coote to blow up the sluice-gates of the 
Bruges Canal. They succeeded in doing this, but could not re-embark through 
stress of weather, and were compelled to surrender. 



244 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [April 

only an hour and a half for the whole operation, for the shore 
batteries — 120 heavy guns, some of them 15-inch — had a range 
of sixteen miles, and the return voyage must start at 1.30, to be 
out of danger before dawn. All went well on the outward voyage. 
Before dark Sir Roger Keyes signalled "St. George for England," 
to which the Vindictive replied, "May we give the dragon's tail a 
damned good twist!" Presently the Sirius and the Brilliant 
changed course for Ostend, and the smoke-screen, provided by the 
smaller craft, rolled landwards with the north-east wind ahead of 
the cruisers. Meantime the monitors and seaplanes had gone to 
work, bombarding the coast defences, as they had done often be- 
fore. This device apparently deceived the enemy. He did not 
man the Mole, and his gunners retired to their bomb-proof shelters 
on shore, knowing well that in face of the smoke-screen they could 
not reply effectively to our fire. It was a case where an artillery 
"preparation" lulled instead of awakening the enemy's suspicions. 

But fifteen minutes before the Vindictive reached the Mole the 
wind changed to the south-west, and rolled back the smoke-screen 
so that the whole harbour was clear to our eyes and we to the 
enemy's. Instantly the darkness was made bright with star- 
shells and searchlight, and from the Mole and the shore an intense 
fire greeted our vessels. There was no time to be lost, and the Vin- 
dictive, under Captain A. F. B. Carpenter, laid her nose against the 
concrete sea wall of the Mole. Her port side had been fitted with 
"brows" — light hinged drawbridges which could drop their ends 
on the wall. A sudden sea had risen, which made the operation 
difificult ; so after the Vindictive had let go an anchor she signalled 
the Daffodil to lie against her stern and keep it in position, while 
the Iris went forward to make fast to the Mole ahead of her. All 
the time a tornado of fire was beating on the three vessels, and to 
land men under such conditions might well have seemed impos- 
sible. But the marines and bluejackets, under their gallant leaders, 
swarmed over the splintering gangways, and dropped on to the shell- 
swept wall. The Daffodil, which should have landed her own men 
after berthing the Vindictive, was compelled to remain on the lat- 
ter's starboard, pressing her into position, while her men crossed 
the Vindictive to join the storming-party ; and the Iris, which 
should have made fast ahead of the Vindictive, found her grapnels 
too small, and had to fall in astern. 

The storming-parties moved along the Mole, finding no Germans, 
but subject to the same withering fire from the shore end. Steadily, 
methodically, they blew up one building after another. A German 



I9i8] THE FIGHT ON THE MOLE 245 

destroyer lay on the harbour side of the Mole, and was promptly 
blown up by our bombs. And then suddenly ahead of them a 
column of flame leapt into the air, and they knew that the viaduct 
had gone. An old submarine, C 3 (Lieutenant R. D. Sandford), 
had steered straight for the viaduct under the enemy's searchlights 
and under constant fire — an anxious task, for the thing was full of 
explosives. The viaduct itself was crowded with the enemy, who 
watched the little vessel approaching as if stupefied by its audacity. 
Apparently they thought that it was trying to get through the 
viaduct into the harbour. Lieutenant Sandford rammed his boat 
into the hole left for the tide in the steel curtain, touched the button, 
got into a skiff, and won clear away. There was no more gallant 
exploit in all that marvellous night. 

The landing-parties on the Mole pushed on to the ragged edge 
of what had once been the viaduct, steadily pursuing the work of 
destruction. The lighthouse was taken, and there Wing-Comman- 
der Brock, who had organized the smoke-screen, was last seen, des- 
perately wounded but still fighting. Suddenly the German fire 
seemed to be concentrated more on the harbour, and as they looked 
eastward they saw the reason. The block-ships were steering straight 
for the canal. The Thetis (Commander Sneyd) went first to show 
the way, but she had the misfortune to foul her propeller in the 
defence nets. She signalled a warning to the others, and then, 
pounded at by the shore batteries, was sunk in the channel some 
hundreds of yards from the canal mouth. Meantime the Intrepid 
(Lieutenant Stuart Bonham-Carter), with every gun in action, and 
belching smoke like a volcano, steered into the canal, and, resting 
her nose on the mud of the western bank, blew up and settled 
down neatly athwart the channel. The Iphigenia (Lieutenant 
Billyard-Leake) followed, a little confused by the Intrepid' s smoke, 
rammed a dredger, and continued, dredger and all, on her consort's 
heels. She beached on the eastern side, swung across the canal, 
and was blown up. The crews of these vessels retired in every 
kind of small craft, and, for the most part, were picked up by the 
destroyers sheltering behind the smoke-screen. 

The signal arranged for re-embarkation had been a blast from 
the Vindictive' s siren. But the Vindictive had long ago lost her 
siren, so the Daffodil did the best she could with her hooter. What 
was left of the landing-parties clambered aboard ; the Daffodil 
towed the Vindictive loose, and the flotilla turned for home. The 
intensity of the German fire redoubled, but the changed wind now 
served us well, and the smoke clouds cloaked our departure. The 



246 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [May 

heavy guns between Zeebrugge and Ostend did not find their 
mark, and the raiders, led by the battered Vindictive, were pres- 
ently in English waters. 

The Ostend operation, under Commodore Hubert Lynes, was 
less successful, for there the block-ships could not be assisted by 
any containing action, such as that on the Zeebrugge Mole, to 
distract the enemy. Our motor boats lit flares on the ends of the 
piers, and concealed them from the shore end by a smoke-screen. 
Unhappily, the veer of the wind blew aside the screen and revealed 
the flares, which the enemy promptly extinguished by gunfire. 
The Brilliant and the Siriiis failed to find the entrance to the harbour, 
and were compelled to sink themselves four hundred yards east of 
the piers and more than a mile from the true canal mouth. 

By the morning of St. George's Day the main part of the great 
venture had been successfully accomplished. Zeebrugge and the 
Bruges Canal were blocked, and it did not appear how, under the 
constant assaults of our aircraft, they could ever be cleared. 
The quality of the British navy had been triumphantly vindicated, 
and in the darkest days of the war on land the hard-pressed Allies 
were given assurance that their Fleet was still master of the seas, 
and the final barrier to a German victory. For the gallantry of all 
concerned — the marines on the Mole, the crews of the block-ships 
and of the Vindictive and her consorts, the men in the picket boats 
and motor launches — no words of praise are adequate. The affair 
will rank in history among the classic exploits of sea warfare. 
But in admiration for the human quality shown, the technical 
brilliance of the feat should not be forgotten. From its nature it 
could not be rehearsed. It demanded a number of conditions which 
involved for their concomitance an indefinite period of waiting, 
and in such a continued tension secrecy on the one hand and ardour 
on the other are not easy to preserve. It required an intricate 
plan, worked out to minute details, any one of which was at the 
mercy of unforeseeable accident. Sir Roger Keyes succeeded by 
taking every human precaution, and then trusting to the luck of 
the Navy ; and it is hard to know whether the more to admire 
his admirable caution or his admirable hardihood. 

The saga of the Flanders coast was not finished. To be fore- 
warned is not always to be forearmed. A surprise may be achieved 
so audacious that it is confidently assumed that it cannot 
be repeated ; but the mere fact of this assumption may be the 
occasion of a second surprise. The Germans at Ostend had removed 
all guiding marks for attacking ships, had cut gaps in the piers to 



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I9i8] OSTEND 247 

prevent a repetition of the landing on Zeebrugge Mole, and had 
a flotilla of nine destroyers watching the bit of coast. A second 
attack there was to the enemy unthinkable, and therefore Sir Roger 
Keyes attempted it. 

The second affair was planned as methodically as the first. 
It was, as before, under the command of Commodore Hubert Lynes, 
and Sir Roger Keyes was also present in the Warwick. About 
midnight on Thursday, 9th May, they left the British coast with a 
number of monitors, destroyers, and motor boats, and, as block- 
ships, the old cruiser Sappho and the Vindictive, now on her last 
voyage. It was a windless spring night, with a quiet sea and a sky 
lit with faint stars. Unfortunately the Sappho broke down on the 
way and did not reach her destination in time, thereby halving the 
British chances. The commodore's destroyer hurried ahead, laid 
a light buoy, and then fell back, while the Vindictive in the charge of 
the smaller craft approached the shore. They saw before them a 
beacon burning, a flare which one of our coastal motor boats had 
hung in the rigging of the sunken Sirius. 

There was no preliminary bombardment till fifteen minutes 
before the block-ships were due at the harbour mouth. At that 
moment two motor boats dashed in and torpedoed the ends of the 
high wooden piers, and on the signal the airplanes watching in 
the heavens began their bombardment, and the great shells from 
our monitors shrieked into the town. Our smoke clouds were 
loosed, and blinded the searchlights and the observation of the 
German batteries. And on their heels came the real thing, a dense 
sea fog, which blanketed everything, and forced our destroyers 
to use their sirens to keep in touch. The solitary block-ship, the 
Vindictive, was hard put to it to find the entrance. She wandered 
east and west under a hail of shrapnel fire from the shore, groping 
for the harbour mouth, and at last found it and steamed in. The 
enemy batteries had discovered her, and she was terribly wounded, 
while the machine guns of the piers raked her decks. She laid 
her nose to the eastern pier, and was preparing to swing across 
the channel when a shell destroyed her conning-tower. It appeared 
that she could not swing farther round, and there was nothing for 
it but to sink her, lying at an angle of some twenty-five degrees 
to the eastern pier. There remained a passage between her and 
the western pier, too narrow to be used by destroyers or the larger 
submarines. Most of her crew were got off in motor launches, 
the commanders of which behaved with the utmost gallantry, and 
at 2,30 on the morning of Friday, the loth, the recall rockets went 



248 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [May 

up and the flotilla turned for home. The nine German destroyers 
had been discreet, and had not shown themselves throughout the 
action. The Vindictive was triumphant in her death as in her life, 
and the second of the two great West Flanders bases was now lost 
to the enemy. 

Zeebrugge and Ostend were the last nails in the coffin of the 
German navy. It seemed all but incredible that along with the 
great German land attack in France and Flanders there should 
not be some attempt at action by the ships from Kiel and Wil- 
helmshaven. If Germany was staking everything on victory, 
surely she must stake her Fleet. It did not come. The British 
reserves were ferried across the Channel without interference. 
Britain herself attacked by sea two most vital bases and ruined 
them irrevocably, and still the great battleships gave no sign. At 
the moment it was a mystery, but six months later that mystery 
was explained. The German fleet had ceased to be more than 
a name. The sleepless activity of Sir David Beatty had paralyzed 
its heart. In the first six months of 1918 over a hundred surface 
craft were lost in the Bight of Heligoland. Minelayers, mine- 
sweepers, patrol boats — they were being driven from the seas ; 
they mutinied, and the mutiny was suppressed ; but the spirit 
and discipline necessary for the most arduous of human tasks had 
gone from their men. The use of foul weapons had ruined the 
moral of sailors who had done gallantly at Coronel and the Dogger 
Bank and Jutland, for the ancient law of Poseidon cannot be 
broken without disaster to the breaker. Already the British 
Admiralty knew what the German Marineamt only dimly guessed, 
that the first order given to prepare a fleet action would for the 
German navy be the signal for revolution. 



CHAPTER XCV 

THE LAST ENEMY OFFENSIVE 
May 26-July 18, 1918 

Opinion in Germany in Early Summer of 191 8 — Ludendorff's Next Stage — 
The Third Battle of the Aisne — Germans reach the Mame — First Amer- 
ican Troops in Action — The Stand on the Ourcq and at Rheims — Hutier's 
Attack on Lassigny Hills — Austria's Last Offensive — Austrian and Italian 
Dispositions — The Attack of 15th June — Hoetzendbrff 's Failure at Asiago 

— Boroevitch's Initial Success on the Piave — The Italian Counter-stroke 

— Results of the Battle — Foch's Last Defensive Action — Ludendorff's 
Culminating Eflfort — The Second Battle of the Mame — The American 
Part — Mangin's Counter-attack of i8th July — The First Step to Victory. 



The success of their armies on the West had during April and 
May keyed the German people to a high pitch of confidence. All 
talk of democracy and the liberalizing of the constitution had been 
silenced by the shouts of triumph. For the moment the High 
Command were again the idols of the populace, and the Hohen- 
zoUerns shared in their glory. A "German peace" would be 
made before the leaves fell, and those who had been most clamor- 
ous for a peace by negotiation were the speediest and noisiest 
in their recantation. It would be easy to cull from the writings 
and speeches of German leaders an anthology of vainglory. "The 
thing is over," said Hindenburg on 25th March. "We have put 
a ring about the British islands," said Helfferich on 24th April — 
"a ring which every day is drawn closer, and we shall bring the 
war to a decision in the west of France and on the waters about 
England." On the same day, in answer to President Wilson, he 
declared, "He shall have it, force to the utmost, force without 
stint or limit." In the Prussian Diet Count Yorck von Wartenberg 
announced: "We have had enough of stretching out the hand 
of peace. It was not by renunciation and agreement, but by power 
of arms that the state of Frederick and Bismarck was made great." 

249 



250 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [May 

The Vorwdrts joined in the paean. "We welcome this victory in 
the West with special joy, because we believe that it must destroy 
for the Western peoples the last remnants of blindness and false 
hopes of success. The psychological moment has now arrived 
when their war-will must collapse." But the most interesting 
testimony came from a curious book published in the spring, 
in which deputies of all parties, except the Minority Socialists, 
expounded their faith. "The fundamental condition for all of 
us," said one socialist, "is that Germany shall remain the con- 
queror in the world's war." "The peace in the East," said 
another, "has broken up the coalition against us." "The war," 
wrote a member of the Centre, "was never anything else but 
an economic duel between Germany and England, and the result 
must be a greater Germany, with ample economic and territorial 
guarantees." The National Liberals clamoured for indemnities. 
"For reasons alike of law and morality it is evident that the 
German people must be better off after the war than before." As 
for the Pan-Germans, they wanted everything — the Meuse, Bel- 
gium, the Balkans, colossal payments. "The interests of Germany 
must be satisfied without any consideration for the interests of 
foreign peoples." And all were agreed 'that the only way to 
these good things was by a decisive field victory. 

This unanimity of press and platform was scarcely an index 
to the feeling of the average German citizen. The truth was that 
he was very weary. He considered that he had done enough 
"pour chauffer la gloire," and he no longer thrilled to the con- 
fident dispatches of the High Command and the Emperor's 
grandiosities. He wanted peace above all things — after victory, 
if possible, but peace in any case — a dangerous mood for a con- 
quering Power. Moreover, his mind had been unsettled by the 
nicely calculated Allied propaganda, and his nerve was being shaken 
by the daring air raids which the British Independent Air Force 
was now conducting as far afield as Cologne. Hitherto he had 
rejoiced at the bombing of Paris and London, but it had been the 
boast of his rulers that war would never enter the German frontiers, 
and this looked unpleasantly like a failure of the promise. There 
were doubting Thomases also in high places. Kuhlmann had 
never concealed his opinion that the victory in the West which 
Ludendorff had guaranteed could not be attained. He had not 
the confidence of his colleagues in the tardiness of America, and 
he had ugly premonitions that his diplomacy in the East had 
been less triumphant than he had at first imagined. He would 



I9i8] THE NEW OFFENSIVE 251 

have preferred to stand on the defensive In the West, husband the 
German reserves, and finish the work in Russia. For it was now 
becoming clear that the iron fist in the Ukraine was too rough to 
reap the fruits for which he had looked, and that Bolshevism, 
which he had alternately flattered and bullied, was like to be a 
broken reed for German statecraft to lean upon. 

But Ludendorff had put his hand to the plough, and there 
could be no turning back. The stagnation of May was not part 
of his plan, but a sheer necessity to enable him to fill up the gaps 
in his ranks. He had lost something over a half a million of men — 
not, indeed, more than he had bargained for, but in that bargain 
he had assumed a success which was still denied him. By the last 
week of May he had replaced more than 70 per cent, of his losses 
from men returned from hospitals, from prisoners sent home from 
Russia, and from the first part of the 1920 class. He had still the 
strategic initiative and the priceless advantage of interior lines. 
He had not changed his main purpose. He still aimed at sepa- 
rating the British and French armies, and for him the vital terrain 
was still the Somme. But he did not consider that the time was 
ripe for the final blow, and he resolved to repeat his Lys strategy, 
and strike first in a different area, with the object of exhausting 
Foch's reserves and stripping bare his centre. There were many 
inducements to this course. Repeated blows at widely separated 
sections would compel the moving of Allied supports round the big 
outer edge of the salient ; would certainly give him local successes ; 
and might, in the precarious position of the Allies, supply just 
that finishing stroke which would disintegrate their entire defence. 
He and his colleagues had always Russia in mind. He had treated 
the Russian front in this way, and by-and-by had come the Revolu- 
tion when the heart and limbs of Russia failed her. Might not the 
sentimental democracies of the West be driven down the same road ? 
He had still some five months of campaigning before him, and he 
did not believe that America would prove a serious factor in the 
war before the winter. His time limits were inexorable, but the 
allowance seemed still sufficient. 

The new terrain must be of the same type as the Lys — that 
is, it must be sufficiently remote from the centre to make reinforce- 
ment difficult, and it must threaten some vital possession of the 
Allies. He found such an area in the Heights of the Aisne. It 
was the nearest point to Paris ; it was a path to the Marne ; and 
an advance beyond the latter river would cut the Paris-Chalons 
railways and imperil the whole French front in Champagne. He 



252 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [May 

could concentrate troops for the attack in the angle of the salient, 
so that, as on 21st March, the Allies could not guess his intention. 
And, having renewed his shock troops, he could once again use the 
deadly tactics of March, to which Foch as yet seemed to have 
found no answer. His aim was to create a broad pocket in the 
direction of the Marne ; then he proposed to make a similar pocket 
on the right towards Compiegne ; and finally in a great combined 
movement to unite these two pockets with the Montdidier salient, 
and so sound the doom of Amiens and Paris. 

About the 20th of May the army group of the Imperial Crown 
Prince had mustered some forty divisions for the attempt, twenty- 
five for the first wave and fifteen in reserve. The two armies 
allotted to the task were: on the right, the VII. Army, under 
von Boehn ; and, on the left, the I. Army, under Fritz von Below. 
They lay between the Ailette and Rheims, wholly to the north 
and east of the plateau ; while on the heights was part of the 
French Sixth Army, under General Maistre, with only the iith 
Corps of four divisions in line. On the French right lay the British 
9th Corps, under Sir A. Hamilton-Gordon, which had been recently 
withdrawn from Flanders. It held the California plateau and 
Craonne, and extended as far south as Bermericourt, with three 
divisions in line — the 50th, 8th, and 21st, and the 25th in reserve 
on the left wing. Around Rheims lay the French Fifth Army, 
with, on its right, Gouraud's Fourth Army extending into 
Champagne. The British divisions, which were depleted and 
tired after their two months' struggle, had been brought for the 
purpose of rest to this section, which Foch had called "a quiet 
place on the Aisne." The weakness of the Allied front — seven 
divisions to hold a line of thirty miles — was due to the exigencies 
of the great battle ; for unless the defence possesses a real superi- 
ority of numbers it must be content to be thin at those points 
where it is favoured by the configuration of the ground, and the 
heights of the Chemin des Dames were assumed by the French 
to be all but impregnable. Further, Foch was convinced that the 
enemy would renew his attacks between Montdidier and Arras, 
and the British Staff seem to have been alone in the forecast that 
the Aisne would be the area selected. 

We have seen that Ludendorff began the Lys battle with an 
attack of nine divisions, a modest complement suitable for a 
subsidiary operation. We have seen, too, that he was gradually 
drawn by his initial success into a gross expenditure of men. 
The new plan marked a further weakening in the rigour of his 



I9i8] THE THIRD BATTLE OF THE AISNE 253 

first strategy. A thirty-mile front and twenty-five divisions of 
assault were on a scale too great for a legitimate diversion. He 
still held to his main plan, but he was beginning to hesitate in his 
methods, and he had chosen an ill place for one prone to tempta- 
tion. For Paris lay in the south-west beyond the forests, and 
the lure of a capital city is hard to resist for the soldier, and harder 
for the politicians behind him. He employed many of the same 
troops, including three divisions of the Prussian Guard, as had led 
the assault on 21st March. Both in the secrecy of his concentra- 
tion and in the precision of his new tactics he far exceeded his 
previous record. Never, perhaps, during the whole campaign did 
the great German war machine move so noiselessly and so fast. 

On the evening of Sunday, 26th May, all was quiet in the 
threatened area ; and it was not till 5 p.m. that the French learned 
from two prisoners of the blow that was preparing. At one o'clock 
on the morning of Monday, the 27th, a sharp bombardment, prin- 
cipally with gas shells, began everywhere from the Ailette to the 
suburbs of Rheims. At four o'clock the infantry advanced, assisted 
to the east of Craonne by tanks, and in an hour or two had swept 
the French from the crest of the ridge. The odds were too des- 
perate, and the four weak French divisions were smothered under 
weight of numbers and artillery. The nth Corps early in the 
morning was back on the southern slopes of the heights, and by 
the afternoon was on the Aisne itself, five miles from its old posi- 
tions. By 8 a.m. three French divisions from the reserve had 
attempted to hold a line on the southern bank of the river covering 
the crossings. They were swept aside, and the German vanguard 
crossed by the French bridges, and before nightfall had reached 
the Vesle : a total advance of twelve miles, and greatly beyond 
anything that had been accomplished on 21st March. By the 
evening the French front ran from the Ailette, near Leuilly, by 
Neuville-sur-Margival to the Aisne at Conde, and then in a crescent 
on the southern bank by Braisne, Quincy, and Mont-Notre-Dame 
to south of Fismes. Large numbers of prisoners and an immense 
store of booty had fallen into Boehn's hands. 

At first Fritz von Below fared less well against the British 
9th Corps. It was forced back to its second position, but resisted 
gallantly for most of the day. All its divisions were battle-weary : 
the 8th had held the line of the Somme on 24th March against the 
Brandenburgers, and a month later had shared in the fighting 
at Villers Bretonneux ; the 21st had fought at Epehy and at 
Voormezeele; the 25th had been in action in March on the 



254 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [May 

Bapaume-Cambrai road, and in April at Ploegsteert Wood, at 
Neuve Eglise, and at Kemmel ; the 50th had been engaged through- 
out the St. Quentin retreat, and most furiously on the Lys on 9th 
April. The 21st, between Cormicy and Bermericourt, with a 
French Colonial Division on its right, held its ground throughout 
the day. The 8th, around Berry-au-Bac, stood firm till the after- 
noon, when the pressure on the west forced it across the river. 
The 50th, at Craonne, had the hardest task of all, for the retreat 
of the French uncovered its left flank, and it was slowly driven 
back to the Aisne, after making a heroic effort to recapture the 
Craonne plateau. That evening the line of the 9th Corps ran 
from Bermericourt westward through Cormicy and Boufifignereux, 
to link up precariously with the French north-east of Fismes. 

The battle had now reached the district of the Tardenois, that 
upland which is the watershed between Aisne and Marne. The 
countryside is broken up into many hollows, but the centre is open 
and full of excellent roads. On the west and south-west lie big 
patches of forest, of which the great wood of Villers-Cotterets is 
the chief. It is cut in the middle by the stream of the Ourcq, 
flowing westward, and farther east by the long and shallow valley 
of the Vesle. On the south it breaks down sharply to the Marne, 
and an enemy coming from the north by the plateau commands 
all the flatter southern shore. 

The sudden success was beyond Ludendorff's expectations, for 
he had hoped at the most to reach Fismes and Soissons. He 
now resolved to push for the Marne at his best speed ; but the 
difficulty lay with his flanks. So long as Soissons and Rheims 
held out he would be forced by every day's advance into a narrowing 
salient. His advantage was that the French line had been com- 
pletely broken, and that some days must elapse before serious 
resistance could be made to his triumphant centre. At all costs 
he must broaden the salient, and on the 28th he succeeded in 
forcing back the containing Allied wings. On his right he drove 
the French to the line Venizel-Serches-Lesges, and on his left he 
compelled the British 9th Corps to retire to positions running 
well south of the Vesle by Crugny to Muizon.* In the centre 
the French were south of Lhuys and Chery and Courville. He 
did more, for on his extreme right, between the Aisne and the 
Ailette, he captured Sancy, and won a line from Pont St. Mard 
by Terny to Bray. He was now on the heights overlooking 

* The night the British 19th Division was brought up in busses to the Ardre 
valley to fill a gap in the French line. 



THE THIRD BATTLE OF THE AISNE. 

( Fat ing p. 3S-, ) 




I9i8] THE AMERICANS AT CANTIGNY 255 

Soissons from the north and close on the town in the river flats 
to the east. 

That day an event happened which might well have given food 
for thought to the German Command. American troops had been 
before this date engaged in minor actions in Lorraine, but now 
for the first time they took part in the main battle. General 
Bullard's 1st American Division, brigaded with the French First 
Army, attacked in the Montdidier section, and took the village of 
Cantigny, along with some hundreds of prisoners. Three furious 
counter-attacks by the enemy failed to retake the place. It was 
much that a new division should thus neatly and efficiently carry 
out an offensive, but that it should be able to consolidate and 
hold its gains was a real achievement and a happy augury for the 
future. When in March Pershing had made his generous offer 
to Foch, he had had only four divisions at his command. Now 
he had the better part of a dozen ready for the line, and fresh troops 
at the rate of more than a quarter of a million a month were crossing 
the Atlantic. 

On Wednesday, the 29th, the broadening of the salient began 
in earnest, and Soissons fell. All the day before it had been hotly 
shelled, and in some places set on fire ; and on the morning of 
the 29th the enemy, strengthened by fresh divisions, pushed in 
from the east and entered its streets. They were driven out after 
severe fighting, but returned to the attack in the afternoon, and 
compelled the French to retire to the plateau west and south of 
the town. Fritz von Below, on the German left, had also increased 
his forces, and succeeded in pressing the British and French troops 
on the Allied right off the upland of St. Thierry. That day there 
was a general falling back everywhere, and at night the Allied line 
ran from La Neuvillette north of Rheims, well to the south of 
Crugny, south of Arcis le Ponsart, through the station of Fere-en- 
Tardenois, and then north-west by Cuiry-Housse, Septmonts, and 
Belleau, to the west of Soissons, and so to Juvigny and Pont St. Mard. 

Next day the German centre made a strong forward thrust. 
It was the second main attack of the battle, and its aims were to 
reach the Marne, and to destroy the two pillars of the Allied front 
at Soissons and Rheims. The first was immediately successful. 
During the morning the German vanguard appeared on the hills 
above the Marne between Chateau-Thierry and Dormans, and by 
the evening the enemy was in possession of some ten miles of the 
north bank of the river, with posts on the south side. He was 
less fortunate on his flanks. He failed entirely to debouch from 



256 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [June 

Soissons. In the east La Neuvlllette fell, and he won a foothold 
in Betheny, but he was checked in front of Rheims. That night 
the Allied front lay from Rheims by Vrigny and Ville-en-Tardenois 
to Dormans ; then along the right bank of the Marne to just east 
of Chateau-Thierry ; then north-west by Oulchy-la-Ville, Missy-au- 
Bois, Tartiers, and Guny to the original line at Pontoise. 

Ludendorff had now cause to consider his position. His achieve- 
ment had been brilliant — an advance of over thirty miles in sev- 
enty-two hours, the occupation of ten miles of the Marne bank, be- 
tween 30,000 and 40,000 prisoners, and some 400 guns. But there 
were anxious elements in his success. He had used up most of the 
fresh divisions of the Crown Prince's reserve, and though Prince 
Rupprecht had twenty more, and Wiirtemberg and Gallwitz at 
least four fresh divisions to spare, it would be unwise to squander 
the total mass of manoeuvre in what had been intended as a diver- 
sion. But the position won was such that it offered no safe resting- 
place ; the battle must be continued, or the gains relinquished. 
It is an accepted rule that a salient on a formed front should not 
be in depth more than a third of its base. But Boehn had far ex- 
ceeded this proportion, and he found himself forced through too 
narrow a gate. There was nothing for it -but to carry away the 
gate-posts — to halt the centre while the flanks came into line. 

The more dangerous wing was the German right, which fol- 
lowed roughly the high road from Soissons to Chateau-Thierry. 
If Boehn could press out in that direction he would enlarge the 
borders of his salient, and, by outflanking the Soissons heights, 
break down that vital gate-post. Accordingly, on the morning 
of the 31st he performed the military operation known as "form- 
ing front to a flank." He drove back the French from the southern 
bank of the Oise and Aisne Canal between Guny and Noyon, and 
he pressed down the valley of the Ourcq as far as Neuilly St. 
Front. North of that point his front ran by Vierzy to Missy, 
and south of it through Bois-du-Chatelet and Verdilly to the north- 
east of Chateau-Thierry. Next day, Saturday, 1st June, it was 
the turn of Fritz von Below, who attacked at Rheims with tanks 
on the left flank of the German salient and at first made ground. 
A French counter-attack later in the day drove him back and 
captured four of his tanks. North-west of Soissons Boehn made a 
half-hearted effort, and south-west of the town the French won 
back some ground, and checked further enemy progress down the 
south bank of the Aisne. On Sunday, 2nd June, both German 
armies made a resolute attempt to break the gate-posts. Below, 



I9I8] CLEMENCEAU'S RESOLUTION 257 

with five divisions, attacked at Vrigny, south-west of Rheims, 
but failed to advance. Boehn drove hard against the v/estern 
flank, occupied the northern part of Chateau-Thierry and the 
high riverside ground as far as Chezy-sur-Marne, and enlarged his 
holding farther north in the neighbourhood of Chezy-en-Orzois. 

But he made no progress down the Ourcq, for the French had 
brought up reserves in that area, and had found a line which they 
could defend. Foch had been slow to reinforce the threatened 
front, for he had, in the first place, to make certain that the enemy 
attack was not a feint. On 30th May he ordered the Tenth 
Army to Villers-Cotterets, and brought Robillot's 1st Cavalry 
Corps to the Ourcq. General Bundy's 2nd and General Dickman's 
3rd American Divisions were used to strengthen the Marne 
line. Just east of the great forest of Villers-Cotterets runs the 
little river Savi^res, in a deep gorge with precipitous sides. It 
falls into the Ourcq at Troesnes, whence an irregular line of heights 
stretches southward in front of Passy and Torcy. All this line, 
which was of some strength, was recaptured by the French by the 
Sunday evening, with the exception of the hamlet of Faverolles, 
where the Germans had still a footing. That day marked the 
farthest limit of Boehn's success in this area, for, though he con- 
tinued his efforts for another week, he made comparatively small 
progress. The Crown Prince had used forty-one divisions in the 
week's battle, and had practically exhausted his own reserves, 
but he had not drawn upon the resources of the neighbouring 
group commanders. The situation was still very grave, for the 
French line had been greatly lengthened, it bristled with vulnerable 
points, and there was scanty room to manoeuvre. Paris was 
dangerously near the new front, and the loss of Paris meant far 
more than the loss of a capital. Earlier in the campaign the great 
city might have fallen without bringing upon the Allies irreparable 
disaster ; but in the past two years it was in the environs of Paris 
that many of the chief new munition factories had arisen. If 
these were lost the Allied strength would be grievously crippled, 
and after four years of war it was doubtful whether France had 
the power to replace them. Already the loss in materiel had been 
severe, for the country between the Aisne and the Marne was full 
of munition dumps and aerodromes. But the stubborn soul of 
him who was now Premier of France would not admit a tremor. 
On 4th June Clemenceau told the Chamber : " Je me bats devant 
Paris ; je me bats h. Paris ; je me bats derri^re Paris." 

On Monday, the 3rd, there was heavy fighting around Torcy, 



258 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [June 

where the Germans tried to push down the little valley of the 
Clignon ; around Faverolles ; and on the Chaudun plateau, south- 
west of Soissons, where Boehn was endeavouring to turn the 
Villers-Cotterets forest by its northern end. The struggle was 
bitter ; but the French reaction had clearly begun, and on their 
extreme left they recovered the southern part of the hill of Choisy, 
which overlooks the Gise. On the Tuesday there was a lull, and 
on Wednesday, the 5th, the French repulsed an attempt to cross 
the Oise near Mont Lagache. The American 2nd Division, at the 
south-west corner of the salient, counter-attacked with success 
west of Torcy on Thursday, the 6th, took Bouresches and part of 
Belleau Wood, and forced the Germans back a mile, while that 
night the British 19th Division * retook the village of Bligny, 
eight miles to the south-west of Rheims. That night the French 
and part of the American 3rd Division captured the important 
Hill 204 above Chateau-Thierry. Boehn had exhausted his 
strength, and had called a halt ; and, according to their practice 
in such lulls, the Germans announced the results of their victory — 
55,000 prisoners and 650 guns. They were clearly preparing a 
blow elsewhere, and Foch waited anxiously for news of it. 

n 

It came on the morning of Sunday, the 9th, and in the quarter 
expected, the area of Humbert's Third Army. This time it was 
the turn of Hutier. It had proved impossible to carry away the 
gate-posts by means of the two armies already engaged, so it was 
necessary to bring the force on their right into action. At mid- 
night on the 8th an intense bombardment began in the Mont- 
didier-Noyon section, and at dawn on the 9th the German XVII I. 
Army attacked with fifteen divisions on a front of twenty-five 
miles. In the next three days three more divisions were drawn 
in, and of the eighteen five were from the reserves of Prince Rup- 
precht. 

The Allied front between Montdidier and Noyon had for its 
main feature the group of low hills south of Lassigny, between 
the streams of the Matz and the Oise. West of the Matz the line 
ran through an open country of ploughland and rolling downs. 

* The general commanding the French Fifth Army paid the following 
tribute to the British 9th Corps : "They have enabled us to establish a barrier 
against which the hostile waves have beaten and shattered themselves. This 
none of the French who witnessed it will ever forget." 



I9i8] HUTIER AT LASSIGNY 259 

East of it the front curved round the northern skirts of the hills, 
which were thickly wooded and rose to some 400 feet above the 
surrounding levels. They formed a continuous ridge except at their 
western end, where one summit was separated from the rest by a 
sharp valley, with the village of Gury at its northern extremity. If 
Hutier could thrust down the Matz he would turn the uplands, and 
so get rid of the chief natural obstacle between him and Compiegne. 
The main strategic object of Ludendorff was now to secure a front 
from which he could threaten Paris. Already his greater scheme, 
though not consciously relinquished, was growing dim, and the 
lure of the capital was overmastering him. Further, he had to 
release Boehn from the awkward narrows in which he was wedged. 

On most of the front of attack Hutier failed, for there was no 
element of surprise, and Foch was ready for him. But in the 
centre along the Matz there was a local success. The enemy ad- 
vanced some three miles, took the isolated hill above Gury, and 
got as far as the village of Ressons, in the south. Next day the 
three miles became six, and the Germans were in Marqu^glise and 
Elincourt, in the centre ; on their left they entered the Bois de 
Thiescourt ; and on their right took the villages of Mery, Belloy, 
and St. Maur. The extreme French left, between Rubescourt and 
Courcelles, stood firm. That evening the French front ran from 
Mesnil St. Georges, in the west, by Le Ployron, Courcelles, Marest, 
Montigny, and La Bernardie, to the south of Cannectancourt. 
The battle was one of dogged resistance, and, for the enemy, slow 
and costly progress, very different to the Aisne action a fortnight 
before. But Foch could not afford to take risks, so that night 
he shortened his line by evacuating the salient south of Noyon, 
between Nampcel and Montigny. Drastic measures were also 
taken for the defence of Paris. 

It was blazing June weather, the ground was bone-dry, and 
all the conditions favoured the attackers. But a new thing had 
begun to appear in the campaign. The enemy pursued his former 
tactics, but they were less successful. The French — Mangin * 
with five divisions — were notably quick in counter-attack, and 
this discomfited the shock troops in their infiltration, for it is small 
use finding weak spots in a front if you are checked before you can 
take advantage of them. The French reserves were still scanty, 
and the defence was still heavily outnumbered, but the odds were 

* He told his men before the attack : " L'op^ration de demain doit 6tre la fin 
de la bataille defensive . . . elle doit marquer Tarrfit des AUemands, la reprise 
de I'oflEensive, et aboutir au succ^." 



26o A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [June 

not so fantastic as in March and April, while in their hundreds of 
thousands America was landing her troops, and her first divisions 
had already shown brilliant quality in the field. 

The battle-front was now gigantic, not less than lOO miles from 
Mesnil St. Georges to Rheims. For the remainder of the month 
there was a ding-dong struggle, no side gaining any real advantage, 
for both were near the end of their endurance. On the nth the 
French retook Mery and Belloy, and advanced their line nearly 
two miles on a front of four between Gournay and Courcelles. 
Farther east they pressed back the enemy from the Matz river, 
and repulsed a German attack along the Ribecourt-Compiegne 
road. On the 12th the Germans had some success between Ribe- 
court and Marest, and took the latter village, as well as Chevin- 
court and Machemont and Melicocq. Just south of the Aisne they 
made another advance — two miles on a front of three. The only 
French gain was at Melicocq, where they won the southern bank 
of the Matz from Marest to the Oise. On the 13th the enemy 
made a great effect between Courcelles and Mery, and again be- 
tween Bouresches and Belleau, but failed with heavy losses. That 
day Hutier's subsidiary operation may be said to have closed, and 
closed without any serious gain. He had squandered twenty odd 
divisions, and the fresh reserves left to Prince Rupprecht were 
again no more than twenty. The tide of assault in the West was 
slowly ebbing. 

Having failed on his right flank, the Crown Prince made a final 
effort on his left. On i8th June Fritz von Below attacked at 
Rheims on a front of ten miles, between Vrigny, on the south-west, 
and the fort of La Pompelle, on the south-east of the city. He 
hoped to take Rheims, but he underrated the defence, and used 
only three divisions. The place was a vital road junction for the 
Allies, and, though encircled on three sides, Mazillier's ist Colonial 
Corps had resisted there most stoutly during the battle, much 
aided by the fact that the Allies held the great massif of the Mon- 
tague de Rheims to the south and south-west. Below's attempt 
was futile, but the fiasco impressed the German Staff with the 
necessity of a serious effort against the Montague if they were to 
make any headway beyond the Marne. Of this impression we 
shall presently see the fruits. 

For the better part of a month silence fell on the battle-front, 
broken only by local attacks of the French and British, which in 
every case were successful, for the enemy was holding most of his 
front thinly with indifferent troops. He was preparing another 



THE LAS8IGNY BATTLE. 

( Farimc P- 360. \ 










I 



H .3JTTA8 y*iai88Aa 3HT 



\ 



A. 



I9i8] AUSTRIA'S LAST HOPE 261 

blow, as all the omens Indicated, and it was likely that this blow 
would be his last. It was certain that it would be on a great scale, 
and would be delivered with desperate resolution, for the summer 
days were slipping by, and Germany waited the fulfilment of Luden- 
dorflf's pledge. So far, in three great actions, he had strategically 
failed. He had taken heavy toll of the Allies; but he had him- 
self suffered colossally, and his casualties were now mounting fast 
to the limit which he had named as the price of victory. The 
climax of the battle — and of the war — was approaching, and Foch 
faced it with an easier mind ; for he saw his army growing daily 
as the Americans came into line, and he could now spend more 
lavishly, since he was sure of his ultimate reserves. More im- 
portant still, he had solved the problem of how to meet the new 
German tactics, and was ready with a method of his own in which 
this great master of modern war borrowed from his opponents, and 
glorified and transformed the borrowings. 

Meantime, Austria had shot her bolt in Italy. We turn now 
to the interlude on the Piave. 



II 

In the great Western offensive Austria had somewhat wryly 
accepted a part, and a conference at Bozen in February had settled 
the details. She had been promised German help ; but when 
April passed and left Ludendorfif far from his goal, the promise 
vanished into limbo. She must do her work herself, and the more 
embarrassed the German position became, the more urgent were 
the demands on her to fulfil her bargain. All winter and spring 
her prospects had been darkening. A moral and economic anaemia 
was sapping her strength. She had never had any true national 
unity, and the separatist aspirations of her subject peoples had 
been waxing as the central authority waned. Large sections of 
her population were starving ; there were frequent mutinies among 
Czech and Slovene regiments ; and their discontent was increased 
as news came of their kinsmen fighting on the Allied side in Italy 
and Russia. Desertions both at the front and on the march had 
become daily occurrences. The propaganda work of the Allies 
was producing a real effect, and discipline could only be preserved 
by extra doles of rations. Nor was the situation better inside the 
Government itself. There was growing friction with Germany, 
and Vienna was at variance alike with Budapest and Berlin. Not 



262 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [May 

all the Austrian generals were disposed to accept meekly the orders 
of the German Staff, or to take Ludendorfif at the valuation placed 
on him by his own people. In every branch of war equipment 
save one Austria was to seek, and that one was numbers. She 
was now able to concentrate her whole army against Italy, and 
her units were brought up to strength by drafts of returning 
prisoners from Russia. i 

Her one hope sprang from the memory of Caporetto. The 
Italian fighting strength was underestimated, and the invinci- 
bility of the new German tactics overrated. The Austrian Staff 
believed that by following the German plan of the 21st of March 
they could break the Italians as they had broken them in the pre- 
vious autumn. What part such a victory would play in the general 
scheme they did not consider, but at any rate it would give them 
an immediate advantage, for they would have the plundering of 
the Lombard plain. Austria could not sit still ; she had to find 
food or face revolution. The corn of Italy was the bribe held out 
to her armies, and among themselves her soldiers called the com- 
ing campaign the "hunger offensive." 

We have seen how by the end of January Pecori-Giraldi and 
de Robilant had restored the position on both sides of the Brenta. 
During the winter the work of defence had proceeded at fever heat. 
The rocks of Grappa and Pasubiowere tunnelled with vast galleries ; 
a new road, 17 kilometres long and climbing to 8,000 feet, was 
built in nine weeks to secure the Asiago front ; huge entrenched 
camps were formed in the rear of the armies ; and a multitude of 
successive trench lines were spread like a net over the Venetian 
plain. Caporetto had made the Italian Command think rather 
of defence than of attack, and they had actually prepared roads in 
case of a further retreat. At first an offensive was proposed for 
the spring, but in March four French and two British divisions 
returned to the Western front, and presently the Italian 2nd Corps 
had to be lent to France, so it was resolved to leave the first step 
to the enemy. There was little activity during the early spring 
except local raids ; but on 27th May the extreme Italian left fought 
a brilliant little action in the region of the Tonale Pass, where there 
was news of an enemy concentration. The great offensive was 
expected towards the close of that month, and Italy was ready 
to receive it. The spirit of her troops was excellent, and the con- 
tinual desertions from the enemy front inspired them with a new 
confidence. Diaz had nearly an equality of numbers with his 
opponents, and he believed that he had an answer prepared to 



I9i8] AUSTRIAN AND ITALIAN DISPOSITIONS 263 

the tactics of Ludendorff. The old weakness of Italy's defence 
was still present — the fact that she must fight in an ugly salient 
with her left flank perpetually turned. But he had taken pre- 
cautions to make that left flank impregnable. 

On the long front Diaz had disposed his armies as follows : — 
On the western side of the Trentino salient from the Stelvio to 
Lake Garda lay the Seventh Army, under Tassoni. On the eastern 
side was Pecori-Giraldi's First Army from Garda to Sculazzon, 
and on its right, covering the Asiago plateau, the Sixth Army under 
Montuori, including the British 14th Corps, under Lord Cavan * 
(which had been moved thither from the Montello in March), and 
the French 12th Corps. In the Grappa region lay Giardino, who 
had succeeded de Robilant in the command of the Fourth Army. 
Pennella, with the new Eighth Army (formerly the Second), held 
the upper Piave and the Montello, and on his right the Duke of 
Aosta's Third Army extended along the river line to the sea. 
One army, the Ninth (formerly the Fifth), under Morrone, was 
held in reserve under General Headquarters. Diaz disposed of 
fifty-six divisions between the Stelvio and the sea. 

The Austrian dispositions had varied little from those of the 
winter. Scheuchensteuel's XL Army was astride the Brenta, with, 
on its right, Krobatin's X. Army, mainly composed of German- 
speaking troops, and the two formed the group of Conrad von 
Hoetzendorff . Along the Piave were the VI . Army of the Archduke 
Joseph and the V. Army of Wurm, containing picked Hungarian 
divisions and forming the group of Boroevitch . The strategical plan 
selected was the only one possible, since fate had given Austria such 
an advantage of position. Her main object must be to push down 
from the hills to the plain, cut the communications of the Piave 
front, and turn the flank of every Italian corps between Monte 
Grappa and the sea. Could this be achieved, absolute victory 
would be hers. Subsidiary to this main operation, an attack was 
arranged on the whole length of the Piave line, where the new 
infiltration tactics were to be put in practice. The strategical con- 
ception of this attack seems to have been a general "feeling" of 
the whole of that section of the Italian front in order to discover its 
weak spots ; but special emphasis was to be laid on the forcing of 
its two pivots — on the Montello and on the coast. "The Italians 
cannot be strong at all parts," ran a captured letter. " If we attack 
everywhere we shall discover their soft places." 

* Lord Cavan had replaced Sir Herbert Plumer in the command of the Brit- 
ish forces on loth March. 



264 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [June 

It is clear that the plan was badly co-ordinated, and that Luden- 
dorfif's principles were imperfectly understood. There was perpet- 
ual friction between Hoetzendorff and Boroevitch, the two group 
commanders ; and this made it necessary to divide the available 
reserves between them at the start, since they would certainly 
quarrel over the use of any reserves kept under the Supreme Com- 
mand. Boroevitch, moreover, deprecated the attack from the hills, 
and would have preferred to look for success to the frontal Piave 
attack, where he intended the battle to be a faithful copy of that 
of the 2ist of March. The question of reserves was the weak point 
among the many shining advantages of the Austrian geographical 
position ; for, while the Asiago section was served by a good lateral 
line, there was no direct communication between it and other 
parts of the front, and the battle was likely to fall into two self- 
contained areas. 

The German tactics were slavishly imitated, but their true 
meaning was scarcely grasped by the Austrian Staff. In March 
Ludendorff had effected a local surprise. The imminence of his 
attack was known, but till the very hour when it was delivered 
its exact area was uncertain. Austria atternpted the same thing ; 
she brought up divisions of assault the day before, and only put 
them in line the morning of the battle ; but owing to the constant 
trickle of deserters her attempt at secrecy proved futile. Again, 
Ludendorff attacked with overwhelming superiority of numbers 
between Arras and the Oise. Austria had fifty-nine divisions in 
Italy at the time, and another eleven were on the road ; but she 
did not use much more than half her available forces the first day. 
This was as it should be; but instead of concentrating on one 
sector, she distributed her attack more or less evenly along the 
whole front. She sent in seventy regiments on a front of seventy- 
five miles, weakening most grievously her power of assault by this 
crazy dissipation. Again, Ludendorff had his special troops trained 
to the highest pitch for their task, and a perfect co-ordination 
between his infantry and his guns. The Austrian infantry had 
never had this specialized training, and the competence of their 
artillery had greatly declined. Finally, Austria subordinated her 
new tactics to no serious strategical plan, or, rather, after the first 
day she jettisoned the plan she had set out with, and forewent the 
immense strategic advantage which she derived from her position. 
She had more than 7,000 guns in support, she had sufficient num- 
bers, she had the main appurtenances of modern war, but she 
seemed to lack the trained military intelligence. She apishly 



I9i8] THE EXPLOIT OF RIZZO AND AONZO 265 

copied the German plan of battle, but in her ignorance left out 
the things which gave it value, like an amateur who designs a 
clock but omits the mainspring. 

A week before the battle opened the spirit of Italy was encouraged 
by a brilliant adventure at sea. On the night of 8th June two 
motor boats were cruising off the Dalmatian coast, one under a 
young Sicilian, Commander Rizzo, and the other in the charge 
of Midshipman Aonzo. At 3.15 on the morning of the 9th they 
perceived a column of smoke, and presently caught sight of two 
Austrian dreadnoughts, escorted by ten destroyers. The two 
Italians conceived the audacious idea of attacking. Rizzo slipped 
through the screen of the destroyers in spite of their fire, got within 
400 feet of the leading battleship, and hit her with two torpedoes. 
Aonzo meantime succeeded in hitting the second ship. The two 
tiny craft then ran for home, and managed to elude the de- 
stroyer which tried to ram them. In a day or two the Austrians 
admitted the loss of their battleship Svent Istvan, and it is certain 
that at least one destroyer and the other dreadnought were either 
sunk or hopelessly crippled. The success of these two intrepid 
sailors, who attempted the impossible and performed the incred- 
ible, put an end for all practical purposes to the Austrian battle 
fleet. 

On Thursday, the 13th, a curious incident happened on the 
extreme left of the Italian front. The Austrians attacked the 
Italian position at the Tonale Pass, north-west of Lake Garda, 
advancing against the ridges on both sides of the main road. The 
attack was made in some strength, and at first won a footing in 
the advanced lines ; but it was soon repelled, and a second attack 
north of the road failed utterly, with the loss of some two hundred 
prisoners. Perhaps the business was meant as a feint ; but if so, 
it was clumsily managed and deceived nobody. The Tonale region 
was too well defended by nature to be suitable for a large-scale 
offensive. Already Diaz had complete knowledge of the enemy's 
plans, even to the hour of assault. He was aware of the magni- 
tude of the Austrian objective ; for von Arz hoped on the first 
day to win Treviso and the southern rim of the heights overlooking 
the Lombard plains ; and in less than a week looked to have Verona 
and Venice. 

Diaz had news that the Austrian bombardment would begin 
at 3 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, the 15th. He resolved to 
anticipate it, and accordingly soon after midnight the Italian 
batteries opened on the Asiago plateau and east of the Brenta. 



266 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [June 

At half -past two this bombardment was resumed, and seriously 
upset the mechanism of the enemy's assembly. Punctually at 
3 a.m. the Austrian "preparation" began on the whole front 
between the Astico and the sea. Then came four hours of intense 
fire, and the German plan was followed of using gas shells to search 
out the Italian back areas. The weather had been unsettled for 
some days, and a wet mist lay along the Piave and in the moun- 
tains. Between 6.30 and 7 the Austrian infantry advanced, prin- 
cipally in two areas — in the plains on the twenty-five mile line 
between San Dona di Piave and the Montello, and in the hills on 
the eighteen miles between Monte Grappa and Canove. 

The two sections may be taken separately, for they were distinct 
battles, without any tactical intercommunication. The line in 
the hills was held by the Italian Sixth Army west of the Brenta, 
and the Fourth Army to the east of it. The former area was the 
more critical, and was made the object of Hoetzendorff's main 
attack. In line on the Asiago plateau, from left to right, lay the 
Italian 12th Division, the British 48th (South Midland) Division, 
the British 23rd Division, and the French 23rd Division. The 
chief thrust came against the British left, south of Asiago, where 
a breach offered the easiest way to the plain: It was delivered by 
four Austrian divisions, which represented a concentration of some 
eight bayonets to the yard. At the first shock the 48th Division 
was pressed back to the extent of 1,000 yards on a front of 3,000.* 
The Italian 12th Division on the left, and "the British 23rd on the 
right, being less heavily attacked, held their ground, and placed 
their reserves at the disposal of the 48th. That division, however, 
was in no serious danger. It found security in a series of care- 
fully constructed switches, where it took its stand and pinned 
down the enemy's advance to an awkward pocket. Farther east 
the French 23rd Division stood its ground, though a few first-line 
positions were occupied in the Monte di Val Bella region. East 
of the Brenta, Giardino's Fourth Army was not seriously endan- 
gered. At one moment the Austrians reached the Col Moschin, 
on the very edge of the hills, but were driven off it. The obvious 
point of peril was the salient in which the Italian line was thrust 
forward on Monte Solarolo, but there all the Austrian efforts were 
unsuccessful. 

By the evening of the 15th Hoetzendorff had most signally 
failed. His attack, made with a great weight of artillery and 

* The reason seems to have been that, following the new practice of keeping 
all the men possible out of the bombardment, its front was too thinly held. 



I9i8] THE FIGHT FOR THE MONTELLO 267 

substantial numbers, had been unable to gain anything except 
a few first-line trenches, which the Allied troops were already win- 
ning back. He had still a mass of unused reserves, and he was 
fighting in an area in which every half-mile was of value, for if he 
could break into the Brenta valley at Valstagna he might yet turn 
the vital curtain of the hills. Diaz expected a further thrust and 
prepared for it, but beyond doubt the honours of the first day 
were not with the enemy. 

Boroevitch had better fortune on the Piave. The hinge of 
the whole Italian position there was the hill called the Montello, 
which lay roughly at the angle between the north and north-eastern 
fronts, where the Piave leaves the hill country for the plain of 
Venetia. The Montello is an isolated ridge, 700 feet high, and 
more than seven miles long, with the river running under its northern 
and eastern slopes. It is checkered with roads, and covered thickly 
with little farms and copses. Just south of it lay Nervesa, with a 
good crossing. If the enemy could occupy and hold the Montello, 
he would have turned the Italian line to the south, and would 
also control the passage in the gap of Vidor to the north. 

The Piave was full, but not in flood, and Boroevitch thrust at 
all the main crossings — at Nervesa ; at Fagare, in front of Treviso, 
where the railway runs to Udine ; and in the south around San 
Dona, where the coastal line crosses. At all he had some success. 
The Archduke Joseph got across at Nervesa, and seized the eastern 
end of the Montello. In spite of Diaz's early and full information 
as to the enemy's plans, he had only one division there to meet 
the attack of six Austrian. Small bridgeheads on the western 
bank were established at Saletto and Fagare, and between Fossalta 
and Capo Sile. Wurm, with the old army of the Isonzo, passed 
the river on a front of nearly nine miles, and began to overrun the 
angle between the Piave and the Sile Canal.* For a moment 
it seemed that the infiltration was about to succeed. But the 
Italian reply was speedy. Counter-attacks caught the Austrian 
shock troops while deploying for advance ; villages changed hands 
many times in a few hours ; and Wurm had anything but an easy 
passage. Yet by the close of the day, while the battle in the north 
had failed, Boroevitch had it to his credit that he had won a footing 
on the Montello, and had bitten deep into the Italian right flank. 
The two pillars of the defence on the Piave were imperilled. 

On Sunday, the i6th, the battle in the mountains turned most 

* A small section of the western bank in this area had been in Austrian hands 
since the preceding November. 



268 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR Qune 

clearly against Hoetzendorff. The British 48th Division drove the 
enemy out of the pocket he had won, and by nine o'clock in the 
morning had recovered its old lines. It found the Austrians 
in complete disorder, and, along with the 23rd Division, entered 
the enemy front, taking guns and prisoners. That evening Lord 
Cavan had in his hands over a thousand prisoners, seventy-two 
machine guns, and seven mountain guns. On the British right 
the French, and on the French right the Italian Fourth Army 
counter-attacked, and recovered most of the little they had lost 
on the previous day. That evening saw the end of the mountain 
battle. Its first stroke had failed with grievous losses, and the 
enemy was unable to repeat it. The mind of General Headquarters, 
as we know from Boroevitch, was confused and undecided, and 
they were not ready to fling their weight into the area of either 
the hills or the river. The result was disastrous, for Boroevitch's 
success on the one hand was not supported, and on the other hand 
they sacrificed the immense strategic possibilities of an attack 
from the hills — the one trump card which Austria possessed. They 
suffered, too, from the self-contained nature of the two battle- 
grounds, for reserves could only get from one to the other by a long 
circuit. 

But for a day or two Boroevitch enjoyed an illusory success. 
His men, including the best Hungarian regiments and a number 
of Slav troops, fought far better than HoetzendorfT's group. On 
Monday, the 17th, the Archduke Joseph extended his hold on the 
Montello, the Italian line now running from Casa Serena to just 
north of Giavera, which meant the loss of the north-eastern half 
of the massif. Lower down, between Folina and the bend of the 
river at Zenson, the Austrians won a bridgehead about a kilometre 
deep on the right bank. South of that they were across the river, 
and close on the Italian second line. Altogether, between Folina 
and the Sile Canal, they held to a depth of from one to eight kilo- 
metres eighteen miles of the western bank ; they had established 
fourteen new bridges between the Montello and Capo Sile, and 
were repairing the old road and railway bridges ; and they had 
already the better part of seven divisions across. Boroevitch was 
working to turn Diaz's two flanks by the capture of the whole of 
the Montello, and by an advance from the position he had won 
west of San Dona. That evening the Italians attempted a counter- 
stroke on their right, between Ronche and Capo Sile, but had no 
success, and had to content themselves with holding the line o£ 
the Palombo Canal. 



I9i8] THE ITALIAN COUNTER-ATTACK 269 

It was no small achievement, and had Boroevitch been able 
to profit by the situation he might have won a real, even a decisive, 
success. But he failed to bring up the reserves which alone could 
have established his gains, while Diaz made no mistake about his. 
On the night of the 17th the Archduke Joseph made a vigorous 
attempt to drive the Italians off the southern edge of the Montello 
at Giavera, but failed ; and by the morning of Tuesday, the i8th, 
Diaz's reinforcements were arriving, and beginning to establish 
the front. The position now was that Boroevitch had close on 
100,000 men across the river, holding the centre thinly, but massed 
in force at the two flanks — the Montello and the San Dona triangle. 
His aim was to push these two flanks forward while maintaining 
his centre ; it was the object of Diaz to break and turn these flanks, 
while at the same time piercing the Austrian centre. That after- 
noon a thing happened which was of incalculable value to the 
Italian cause. 

This was the flooding of the Piave. The rain in the hills during 
the past days had turned the broad, shallow river into a formi- 
dable torrent. Far up in the mountain glens woodcutters had built 
piles of felled trees by the river-banks, waiting for such time as 
they could be floated down to their lowland market. Now the 
flood seized them and bore them like battering-rams on its yeasty 
current. Most of the new bridges were swept away. Only in the 
far south at San Dona, where the stream is always broad and deep, 
did bridges still stand, but instead of fourteen there were presently 
but four. ' , 

On the 1 8th the Italian counter-attack began. The Eighth 
Army advanced on the Montello, where the Archduke Joseph from 
the ridge above Ciano was already looking down on Montebelluna. 
It was only a beginning, but farther south the Duke of Aosta's 
Third Army had a real success. It broke through the Austrian 
centre between Candelu and Fagare, and occupied the river bank 
at Saletto. It reached the bank also at Zenson, and cleared much 
ground in the angle between the Sile Canal and the Piave, estab- 
lishing itself along the Fossalta Canal. Next day, Wednesday, 
the 19th, the advance on the Montello was pressed strongly, and 
the Archduke Joseph was slowly driven back to the north-eastern 
corner. There was a relentless pressure, too, in the angle between 
the Piave and Sile, and by the 20th Wurm had lost more than 
half his gains, and was back within two miles of the river. Up 
to that day thirty-five Austrian divisions had been used in the 
battle. Boroevitch claimed 30,000 prisoners and 120 guns. Diaz 



270 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [June 

had already taken 13,000 prisoners. The great offensive had 
clearly failed ; it remained to be seen whether it would not end 
in an Austrian disaster. 

With the bridges down there was no hope for the Montello ad- 
vance, and the only chance which was left to Boroevitch was to 
turn the Italian right at San Dona, where his communications 
were still more or less intact. Diaz anticipated this move by 
turning the Austrian left. On Friday, the 21st, a mixed force 
of soldiers and sailors, which had crossed the Sile Canal the day 
before, made their way through the shore marshes and seized a 
position on the eastern bank of the channel of the Piave Vecchio, 
about Cavazuccherina. This threatened the main stream of the 
Piave at Grisolera, and might turn the bridgehead at San Dona 
and the whole Austrian position between Capo Sile and Fossalta. 
Wurm grew nervous, the more so as that day he had launched an 
attack from the San Dona bridgehead, and had suffered a heavy 
defeat in front of Losson. Besides, his communications were 
becoming precarious, and those of the centre and of the Mon- 
tello army had ceased to exist. Boroevitch could get no assist- 
ance from Hoetzendorff, he could not even get instructions from 
General Headquarters, and as with waning forces he was facing 
a waxing enemy he had no choice but to discontinue the battle. 
On Saturday, the 22nd, he gave orders for a general withdrawal 
across the Piave. The weather was improving, the stream was 
falling, and the best he could look for was to escape without catas- 
trophe. That night the retreat began. 

Early on the morning of Sunday, the 23rd, Diaz was made 
aware of the enemy's doings. He ordered a cautious general ad- 
vance, and that day issued his bold communique: "From the 
Montello to the sea the enemy, defeated and pursued by our brave 
troops, is crossing the Piave in disorder." The last two words 
were the expression rather of a hope than of the facts. The Aus- 
trlans in their retreat were faced with every difficulty — beaten 
troops, few bridges, a river still high ; but they made their escape 
as skilfully as in the November before the Duke of Aosta had won 
away from the Isonzo, and with substantially fewer losses. By 
noon on the Sunday the whole of the Montello was in Italian hands, 
and the enemy, partly by ferry boats and partly by wading, was 
straggling across the Piave. Pennella at once established bridge- 
heads on the eastern bank at Falze and opposite Nervesa and sent 
forward cavalry patrols. The Duke of Aosta had a less simple 
task. He drove in the Austrian centre with ease, but was met 



I9i8] THE AUSTRIANS RE-CROSS THE PIAVE 271 

with a determined resistance from Polish troops at the bridge of 
San Dona, which, except for that of Grisolera, was the only one 
now left. As soon as he had reached the river bank he flung 
bridges over, and sent forward cavalry and infantry patrols ; but 
the enemy was now established in the old defences from which 
he had started the battle. 

By the afternoon of Monday, the 24th, the whole of the west 
bank of the Piave above the Sile Canal was in Italian hands. Bo- 
roevitch had lost some 6,000 prisoners and sixty guns in the actual 
crossing, which was a small price to pay, considering that at the 
moment of retreat he had sixteen infantry and two cavalry divi- 
sions on the right bank. That day there was a slight Italian ad- 
vance in the hills in the neighbourhood of Monte di Val Bella and 
Monte Asolone. Till the end of the month there was continuous 
fighting in the Piave delta, half-way between the two branches of 
the river. Monte di Val Bella was captured on the 29th, the Col 
del Rosso on the 30th, and on 2nd July the old line was practi- 
cally restored in the Monte Grappa region. On this last date the 
Third Army finally cleared the Piave delta, and held the right bank 
of the main channel all the way from San Dona to the sea at Cor- 
tellazo. We may take this as the final incident in the operations. 
Everything that had been lost in the attack of 15th June had been 
won back — everything and a little more. Venice and its great 
arsenal had been put out of the range of the longest of the enemy 
pieces. 

The result of the battle was that Austria had lost some 20,000 
prisoners and from seventy to one hundred guns, and had incurred 
at least 150,000 casualties. Her ambitious effort had utterly 
failed, and her offensive power was for the time at an end. Her 
spirit was crippled, and the hope of food which had been held 
out as a bribe to her starving peoples was gone. More than ever 
was Germany left to continue the struggle alone. The temper of 
Italy grew high, for Caporetto had been avenged. It had been a 
creditable achievement, though at times on the Montello mistakes 
had been made, and the harassing of the enemy's retreat had been 
conspicuously less skilful than the defence. Lord Cavan, con- 
vinced from his experience in the hills that the enemy moral was 
breaking, urged an immediate offensive, and it is as certain 
as such things can be that a blow struck with the whole of Italy's 
might would then and there have brought Austria to her knees. 
But once Boroevitch was east of the river, Diaz considered that his 
immediate chance had departed, and that a great Italian counter- 



272 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [June 

stroke was impossible at the moment. An attack in the moun- 
tains, owing to the difficult country, needed slow and methodical 
preparation, and an advance beyond the Piave, even if sufficient 
troops and guns had been available, would have been a hazardous 
adventure, since it would have further lengthened the Italian line, 
and would have made its precarious left flank the more vulnerable. 
For these reasons Diaz decided that the time was not yet for such 
an enterprise. In the meantime he had parried and heavily coun- 
tered the last blow of Germany's main ally, and caused Luden- 
dorff to gather all his strength for that culminating effort in the 
West for which Foch had made subtle and assiduous preparation. 

IV 

A defensive need not be stagnant and supine. It may be as 
vigilant and aggressive as any attack. From 2 1st March to the 
middle of July the mind of Foch was working intensely on the 
problem before him. He had to repel from day to day Luden- 
dorff's hordes, and conserve and nurse his own mass of manoeuvre ; 
but he had also to discover the answer to the new German tactics, 
and frame his own tactical plan against the day of revanche. Hints 
of his solution appeared in the June fighting on the Matz and In 
the Italian resistance on the Piave, and by midsummer his scheme 
was complete. The gist of his tactical reply lay in three points : 
first, the organization of his outpost line in great depth, not unlike 
Armin's device at Third Ypres, so that the first enemy shock might 
spend itself in the void ; second, a highly complex use of artillery 
to break up a concentration once it was located ; and, third, a 
system of rapid counter-attacks to check 'infiltration' at the 
start. That was for the defence. For his own advance, when 
the time for it came, he had recast Ludendorff's tactics in a better 
form, and had subordinated them to a strategical plan of far greater 
boldness and ingenuity than anything as yet originated by the 
German General Staff. For these tactics he had a weapon of 
supreme value in his new light tanks, which, modelled on the 
British "whippet," were now appearing in large quantities on the 
French front, and which, in local counter-attacks on the Aisne, 
had already proved their merit. 

But no plan is effective without numbers to execute it, and 
for the first time Foch had numbers at his command. The achieve- 
ments of America in war finance, in ship construction, and In pro- 
duction of materiel were adequate to the seriousness of her purpose, 



American Troops embarking at Southampton 
From a painting by Sir John Lavery, R.A. 



I9i8] THE AMERICANS IN LINE 273 

and there could be no higher praise. Already her levies of men 
had passed the two million point, and their preliminary training 
had been expedited to such a degree that soon after midsummer 
she was landing in France every five weeks as many troops as the 
sum of Germany's annual recruitment. The retreat from St. 
Quentin had been for the Allies a blessing in disguise, for it had 
induced America to perform one of the most miraculous exploits 
in history. In April 117,212 American soldiers had landed in 
Europe ; in May, 224,345 ; in June, 276,372 ; and of the total of 
617,929 more than half had been carried in British ships.* The 
rate was increasing, too, with every week. In March the American 
army in France had numbered some 300,000 men ; in eight months 
it was to grow to over two millions. Moreover, America had 
shown the most admirable generosity and good sense in the use 
made of her forces. She naturally looked forward to great Ameri- 
can armies in France commanded, like the French and the British, 
by her own generals. But in order to facilitate training it was 
desirable to postpone the realization of this ideal, and she con- 
sented to brigade her men with French and British troops. The 
American divisional unit f was maintained, but it served for the 
present under French or British army and corps commanders. 
For a month or two it was inevitable that the number of American 
troops capable of being used in the first line should be only a small 
proportion of the total in France. But the presence of these great 
potential reserves had the inestimable advantage that it enabled 
Foch to use his seasoned troops boldly, since material for replacing 
them was mounting up every day. 4 

It is hard to tell how far Germany was aware of the full danger 
awaiting her in this addition to the Allied strength ; but whatever 
her General Staff may have thought, her politicians and her press 
gave no sign that they realized its gravity. Sneers at America 
were the stock-in-trade of every German newspaper and most 
German orators. The nation was officially informed that every 
day saw anti-war demonstrations in New York, and that the weep- 
ing and desperate conscripts had to be herded on board the trans- 
ports by special police. The great American army, said the press, 
could not swim or fly, therefore it would never arrive ; the Ameri- 
cans only shouted to keep warm, and would bring everything to 

* From March 191 8 to the end of the war the proportion was : American 
vessels, 42.15 per cent. ; British vessels, 55.40 per cent. ; the remainder being 
provided by France and Italy. 

t An American division numbered 979 officers and 27,080 men. 



274 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [July 

market except their own skins ; the bravos of the West were no 
better than Falstaff' s men in buckram ; only the wastrel and the 
degenerate ever enlisted in the American ranks — such are a few 
phrases culled from writers of established reputation. The finan- 
ciers told the people that it was fortunate that America had entered 
the war, since she was the only country from which a big indemnity 
could be extracted. Even in July the boasting continued. One 
German journal during that month declared that the American 
millions would be found to be only "soldiers of a child's game, 
mostly made of paper cuttings;" and on the 4th the Deutsche 
Tageszeitung wrote : "To-day, on the anniversary of the American 
Day of Independence, the Entente will fill the world with sounding 
praises of this help. America herself will produce a world of bluff 
in the shape of phrases, threats, and assertions — all bluff, pure 
bluff, celebrated in Paris by a review." 

Ludendorff was an experienced soldier, and less easily deceived. 
But he considered that he had still a chance of winning the victory 
which he had promised his people. He had waited six weeks, 
partly because of the influenza epidemic and partly from the sheer 
necessity of resting certain overworked units — the same time as 
had elapsed between the Battle of the Lys'and the Third Battle 
of the Aisne — and he had collected every reserve from every front 
on which there were German troops. He had brought a new army, 
the IX., under von Eben,* from the East, to act as an "army of 
pursuit" when the Allied front was broken. His plan was to 
strike out from the awkward salient in which Boehn had been 
entrapped, and to press beyond the Marne and cut the great lateral 
railway from Paris to Nancy. At the same time Mudra (who had 
succeeded Fritz von Below) with the I. Army, and Einem with 
the III. Army, were to strike east of Rheims between Prunay and 
the Argonne, for he wanted the railway system that ran through 
that city. If these operations succeeded, Rheims and the Mon- 
tagne de Rheims would fall, and the French front would be divided 
into two parts which would never again be joined. Then, sweep- 
ing westward, with the help of Eben, Boehn would march on Paris 
down the valley of the Marne. Foch would hurry up his scanty 
reserves — Ludendorff believed that they were all but exhausted, 
and that the Americans were too untrained to be dangerous — to 
the threatened point, and at that moment Armin would attack at 
Ypres, and Hutier and Marwitz would break through the Amiens- 
Montdidier front and descend on the capital from the north. Then 
* He was succeeded on the 9th of August by von Carlowitz. 



I9I8] FOCH'S PLAN 275 

would Haig be finally cut oflF from P^tain, and P^tain would be 
broken in two, and victory, complete and cataclysmic, would follow. 
The Germans christened the coming battle the Friedensturm, the 
action which would bring about a "German peace." 

The enemy was so confident that he made little secret of his 
plans. From deserters and prisoners Foch gathered the main de- 
tails long before the assault was launched. His problem was not 
an easy one, for he had vital objectives, like Paris and the Nancy 
railway, far too near his front. It was not likely that Boehn could 
advance far unless he broadened his salient ; but the attack of 
Mudra and Einem east of Rheims was a grave matter, for, if they 
succeeded, all the difficulties of the salient would vanish, and the 
disadvantage of position would lie wholly with the French. He 
resolved to meet the shock as best he could, and at the right mo- 
ment to use every atom of reserve strength to strike at the enemy's 
nerve centre, as a wary boxer, when his antagonist has over- 
reached himself, aims at the "mark." It was a bold decision, 
for he followed Montrose's maxim, and "put it to the touch 
to win or lose it all." If he failed it would be hard to save Paris. 
But if he succeeded ? To a watcher of the auspices the German 
front on the map wore a look of fortunate omen, for it had that 
shape of a sickle, with the handle in Champagne and the centre of 
the blade on the Ourcq, which it had borne on the crucial day of 
September 9, 19 14. That day Foch had struck and shattered the 
first German dream ; now, after four years, he played for the same 
tremendous stake among the same hills and forests. 

The Allied Commander-in-Chief had planned on a majestic 
scale a battle of the Napoleonic type. All the cherished stages 
of the great Emperor were provided for. The advance guard 
would take the first shock, make clear the enemy's intention, and 
pin him down to a definite field of action. Next, at the right 
moment, a blow would be delivered at the enemy's weakest flank. 
Last would come the thrust against the now embarrassed centre, 
and whatever the gods might send thereafter in the way of fortune. 
To carry out this scheme it was essential that the Germans should 
not repeat their performance at the Third Battle of the Aisne, and 
drive back the French too far. Some retirement was inevitable, 
but it must be calculated and defined. In Boehn's area it would 
be all to the good that the apex of the German salient should 
extend well south of the Marne till it became as deep as it was 
broad ; it would only make the conditions better for the next 
stage. But the gateposts must stand, and at all costs the salient 



276 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [July 

must not be widened. The critical area was east of Rheims. 
There the enemy must be held in the battle positions, for if he 
pressed too far he would render Rheims and the Montague un- 
tenable, and instead of an ugly salient would create a broad arc 
curving securely into Champagne. 

Between Dormans, on the Marne, and Rheims Foch had the 
Fifth Army, under Berthelot, who had for nearly two years been 
chief of the Allied Mission in Rumania. With Berthelot at the 
Montagne de Rheims was the Italian 2nd Corps, containing picked 
Alpini battalions. On his left, from Dormans to FaveroUes, lay 
the Sixth Army, under Degoutte, who, in April 1917, had com- 
manded the Moroccan Divisions at Moronvillers. Between Fave- 
roUes and Soissons lay the Tenth Army, under Mangin. Mangin, 
it will be remembered, had been the hero of the winter battles at 
Verdun in 1916, and had commanded the Sixth Army at the Second 
Battle of the Aisne. After that for many months he had been 
lost in obscure commands ; but now he was to vindicate his claim 
to rank among the foremost Allied generals. East of Rheims, 
holding the gate of Champagne, was the Fourth Army, under 
Gouraud. With him was the 42nd American Division (General 
Menoher), known as the "Rainbow," since it was drawn from 
many States. With Degoutte was the 3rd (General Dickman), the 
26th (General Clarence Edwards), the 28th (General Muir), and the 
4th (General Cameron) American Divisions, and with Mangin the 
2nd (General Harbord) and 1st (General Summerall). By the 
middle of July there were on the Marne over 300,000 American 
soldiers in line or in immediate support. 

Ludendorff, seeking a final decision, did not unduly limit his 
objectives. He wanted no less than the line of the Marne between 
Epernay and Chalons as the fruit of the first day's advance. The 
attack was arranged in two sections — on a front of twenty-seven 
miles, between Fossoy, south-east of Ch§.teau-Thierry, and Vrigny ; 
and on a front of twenty-six miles east of Rheims, between Prunay 
and the Main de Massiges. In each area he used fifteen divisions 
for the first wave, twenty-three of them fresh divisions from his 
general reserve, and seven of them borrowed from Prince Rup- 
precht's group. He had a large number of tanks, which he allotted 
to the area east of Rheims, where the low downs of Champagne 
made the going easier for machines which had not the skill of the 
Allied type in covering rough country. 

At midnight on Sunday, 14th July, Paris was awakened by 



I9i8] THE GERMANS CROSS THE MARNE 277 

the sound of great guns. At first she thought it was an air raid, but 
the blaze in the eastern sky showed that business was afoot on 
the battlefield. She waited for news with a solemn mind, for she 
knew that the last stage of the struggle for her possession had 
begun. The "preparation " lasted till four o'clock ; but before the 
dawn broke the Germans were aware of a new feature in the bom- 
bardment. The French guns were replying, and with amazing 
skill were searching out their batteries and assembly trenches, so 
that when zero hour came the attacking infantry in many parts 
of the line were already disorganized. Foch's intelligence sen,^ice 
had done its work; he had profited by the enemy's bravado, 
and he read their plans like an open book. 

About 4 a.m. on the 15th, just at dawn, the German infantry 
crossed the parapets. Boehn was instantly successful, for it was no 
part of Foch's plan to resist too doggedly at the apex of the salient. 
The Germans passed the Marne at various points between Chateau- 
Thierry and Dormans, reached the crest of the hills on the south 
shore, and extended to the valley where lay the villages of St. 
Agnan and La Chapelle. It was an advance of from one to three 
miles on a front of twenty-two. That evening Boehn's line lay^ 
from Fossoy, south of the Marne and three miles east of Chateau- 
Thierry, by Mezy, St. Agnan, La Chapelle, Comblizy, north of 
Mareuil le Port, through Chatillon, north of Belval, through Cuit- 
ron and Clairizet to the Bois de Vrigny. It was a substantial 
advance; but one thing it had failed to achieve. It had not 
widened the salient. No impression had been made upon the 
French front in the Montague de Rheims region, and the gatepost 
on the west at Chiteau-Thierry stood like a strong tower. In the 
former area the Italian 2nd Corps, fighting among thick woods in 
the upper glen of the Ardre, barred the way to Epernay by the 
Nanteuil-Hautvillers road. In the latter area the American 3rd 
Division * and elements of the 28th first checked and then rolled 
back the German wave, clearing part of the south bank of the 
river, and taking 600 prisoners. These were the troops who, 
according to the German belief, would not land in Europe unless 
they could swim like fishes or fly like birds. Like the doubting 
noble of Samaria, the enemy had declared, "If the Lord would 
make windows in heaven, might this thing be." But the incon- 
ceivable had been brought to pass. Birnam Wood had come to 
Dunsinane. 

* On the front of the 3rd Division the Germans had 84 batteries — 336 guns, 
as against 31 American and Freach batteries — 124 guns. 



278 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [July 

East of Rheims Mudra and Einem made no headway at all. 
They were opposed by one who was not only a paladin of chivalry, 
but a great and wily tactician. Gouraud's counter-bombardment 
dislocated the German attack before it began ; his deep outpost 
zone caused it to spend itself idly with heavy losses ; his swift 
counter-attacks checked the infiltration before it could be set 
going. Ground was, indeed, given up north of Souain and Prosnes, 
and between Tahure and Massiges on the old Champagne battle- 
field, and the Germans entered Prunay. But not a French gun 
was lost, and Gouraud's battle zone was untouched. The German 
tanks were all stopped by anti-tank guns or land mines. The 
French losses were trifling : only 3,000 men passed that day through 
Gouraud's casualty stations. It was indeed for the enemy such 
a situation as had faced Nivelle at the end of the first day of the 
Second Battle of the Aisne. But the failure was far graver for 
Ludendorff, for he was staking all on an immediate victory. 

Nevertheless the end was not yet. The Germans had still at 
least sixty divisions in reserve, and they were battling for dear 
life. The unsuccess of the first day must be redeemed, and at 
any cost Epernay must be reached and, the Montague isolated. 
Could this be done, there was still time to form a new front on the 
western flank and push down the Marne to Paris. The French 
south of the river in the St. Agnan valley had lost their power 
of direct observation, and so could not use their guns effectively 
against the German bridges. The danger point was the road to 
Epernay up the Marne Valley, and all day on the i6th Berthelot 
was hotly engaged. He fell back 4,000 yards, but in the evening 
his centre was still holding on the line Festigny-Belval. Farther 
west the French had better fortune, for in the afternoon 
they counter-attacked between Comblizy and St. Agnan, won the 
ridge overlooking the Marne, and proceeded to make havoc among 
the German pontoons. In Champagne that day there was no ad- 
vance. Mudra and Einem were utterly exhausted. On the fringes 
of the Montague the French and Italian troops on Berthelot's right 
maintained their positions. The day closed with ill omens for the 
enemy. Since the French on the St. Agnan ridge could sweep the 
river crossings, it would be hard for Boehn to maintain his eight 
divisions beyond the river. 

Yet on Wednesday, the 17th, he still persisted. There was 
hard fighting on Berthelot's right wing, where the Italian 2nd 
Corps was engaged on the upper Ardre, and the Germans made 
progress at the Bois de Courton and towards Nanteuil. The 



HE SECOND BATTLE OF THE MARNE. 




'il 



^' 



K-^m-fi v\. 






I9i8] MANGIN'S ATTACK 279 

Italians, however, by a brilliant counter-attack retook the village 
of Clairizet. South of the Marne the French centre was pressed 
farther up the river ; but by the evening it had retaken Mont- 
voisin and the high ground to the west between that place and 
Festigny. Boehn made a great effort to win back the ridge just 
south of the Marne, but failed ; and all day the battle swung back- 
wards and forwards without material result. But by the evening 
the eight German divisions were very weary, and their communi- 
cations across the river were in serious jeopardy. They had shot 
their bolt, and at the farthest point had advanced some six miles 
from their old battle-front. 

The time had now come for Foch's counter-stroke. He had 
resolved to thrust with all his available reserves against the weak 
enemy flank between Soissons and Chateau-Thierry. It offered a 
superb mark. In the first place, Boehn was fighting with his head 
turned the wrong way, and in case of a flank attack must make 
hasty and difficult adjustments. In the second place, the German 
communications were parallel to their front. The great road from 
Soissons by Fere-en-Tardenois to Rheims, with its branches run- 
ning south to the Marne, was the main feeder of the whole German 
line in the salient. If that were cut anywhere north of Rozoy 
supply would be greatly hampered. Moreover, all the railway 
communications between the salient and the north depended upon 
the junction of Soissons. If that junction were captured or ren- 
dered unusable, the Marne front would suddenly find itself some 
thirty miles from a railhead. It is inconceivable that the German 
Staff should not have been alive to such a risk, and the only ex- 
planation is that they believed that Foch had no serious reinforce- 
ments. At the moment, between Soissons and Chateau-Thierry, 
Boehn had only eight divisions in line and six in support ; but he 
had large reserves inside the salient, and the new IX. Army, under 
Eben, was forming in the rear for its advance on Paris. 

When Foch decided to stake everything on his attack, he took 
one of those risks without which no great victory was ever won. 
Prince Rupprecht had still his twenty-two fresh divisions threat- 
ening Flanders and the Amiens gate, and more than one French 
commander viewed the hazard with grave perturbation. There 
were anxious consultations between Foch, Petain, and Fayolle. 
But the general most intimately concerned, Sir Douglas Haig, 
had no doubts. He was prepared to weaken his own line rather 
than cripple Foch's great bid for a decision, and willingly con- 



28o A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [July 

sented to the withdrawal of the eight French divisions from Flan- 
ders. More, with the assent of his Government, he placed four 
British divisions unreservedly at Foch's disposal for use with 
Mangin or Berthelot. It was a courageous decision alike for Cab- 
inet and Commander-in-Chief, for so far Foch had been frequently- 
proved in error, and his record was still only of withdrawals and 
defeats. 

Ever since, on i6th June, he had succeeded to the command 
of the Tenth Army, Mangin had been engaged in preparing a 
jumping-off ground for his assault. By many local attacks he 
had worked his way out of the gully between Ambleny and St. 
Pierre Aigle, and, farther south, had reached the east bank of 
the Savieres. He wanted to be clear of the forest and the ravines, 
and to have a starting-point on the edge of the plateau. From 
Longpont there runs eastward from the forest for twenty miles 
a high and narrow ridge, culminating in the heights north of Grand 
Rozoy. This gave him an avenue for his advance, for if he could 
win its eastern end he would command not only the vale of the 
Ourcq, but the whole plateau eastward towards the Vesle. By 
the morning of Thursday, the i8th, there had been a readjust- 
ment of the French forces. Mangin's Tenth Army, which was 
to conduct the main operations, was in its old place between the 
Aisne and Faverolles, on the Savieres ; but Degoutte's Sixth Army, 
which had been holding the line from Faverolles to St. Agnan, 
drew in its right to Vaux, a mile west of Chateau-Thierry, and the 
gap between it and Berthelot was filled by the French reserve 
army, the Ninth, under de Mitry. 

Mangin's striking force was assembled during the 17th in 
the shade of the Villers-Cotterets forest. The morning of the 
1 8th dawned, after a night of thunderstorms and furious winds. 
There was no gun fired on the northern section, but at 4.30 out 
from the shelter of the woods came a swarm of 32 1 tanks ; and 
behind them, on a front of thirty-five miles, Mangin's army and 
Degoutte's left and centre crossed the parapets. The tactics of 
Cambrai had been faithfully followed. From Fontenoy, on the 
Aisne, to Belleau, six miles north-west of Chateau-Thierry, was 
the front of action, and before the puzzled enemy could realize 
his danger the French and Americans were through his first defences. 

The advance of the i8th was like a great bound forwards. 
Mangin's left wing swept through the villages of Pernant and 
Mercin, and by half-past ten in the morning held the crown of 
the Montagne de Paris, half a league from the streets of Soissons, 



I9i8] THE MOMENT OF DESTINY 281 

and within two miles of the vital railway junction. Farther south, 
his centre — the American 1st and 2nd Divisions and between them 
the 1st Moroccans — occupied half the plateau which separated 
them from the Crise valley and the great Soissons-Chateau-Thierry 
road ; and that night the village of Vierzy fell. Degoutte by the 
evening held the front Chouy-Neuilly St. Front, and thence by 
Priez and Courchamps to Belleau, though an enemy salient re- 
mained about Noroy-sur-Ourcq. The American 26th Division 
was the southern pivot at Vaux, while the line advanced and took 
Torcy and Belleau. Sixteen thousand prisoners fell to the French, 
and some fifty guns ; and at one point Mangin had advanced as 
much as eight miles — the longest advance as yet made in one day 
by the Allies in the West. Foch had narrowed the German salient, 
crumpled its western flank, and destroyed its communications. 
He had wrested the initiative from the enemy, and brought the 
Friedensturm to a dismal close. 

He had done more, though at the time no eye could pierce 
the future and read the full implications of his victory. Moments 
of high crisis slip past unnoticed ; it is only the historian in later 
years who can point to a half-hour in a crowded day and say that 
then was decided the fate of a cause or a people. As the wounded 
trickled back through the tossing woods of Villers-Cotterets, spec- 
tators noted a strange exaltation in their faces. When the news 
reached Paris the city breathed a relief which was scarcely justified 
with the enemy still so strongly posted at her gates. But the 
instinct was right. The decisive blow had been struck. Foch 
was still far from his Appomattox, but he had won his Gettys- 
burg. He had paralyzed the nerve-centre of the enemy, and 
driven him down the first stage of the road to defeat. When 
the Allies breasted the Montagne de Paris and the Vierzy plateau 
on that July morning, they had, without knowing it, won the 
Second Battle of the Marne, and with it the war. Four months 
earlier Ludendorfif had stood as the apparent dictator of Europe ; 
four months later he and his master were in exile. 



CHAPTER XCVI 

THE FOURTH YEAR OF WAR: A RETROSPECT 
June 28, igiy-June 28, 1918 

Behaviour of British People after March Crisis — The Maurice debate — The 
Submarine — Understanding with America — The position in Eastern 
Europe — The Bolshevik Nightmare — Murder of the Imperial Family — 
Allies' Attempt to Restore Eastern Front — Murman and Archangel — 
Siberia — The Russian Volunteer Army — Transcaucasia — Friction be- 
tween Turkey and Germany — Dunsterville at Baku — Feeling in Ger- 
many — Resignation of Kuhlmann — The First Overtures for Peace. 

If we make the anniversary of the beginning of war the day of 
the Serajevo murders, we have to look back upon a year of nearly 
continuous Allied misfortunes. If we take it as 4th August, the 
date of the real start of hostilities, we can discern the first flush 
of the dawn of victory. It had been a twelvemonth of supreme 
tension and grave searching of heart. The Allies had seen Eastern 
Europe fall into the grasp of the Central Powers. They had seen 
a German domination established over a nerveless Russia which 
it might well take a century to unloose. They had found their 
whole scheme of battle ineffective in the West. Costly partial 
victories had succeeded each other until the pendulum swung 
backwards, and in a week those partial successes had been turned 
into something not far from disaster. There was a time in April 
when men who were honest with themselves were compelled to 
admit that what seemed a little before to be the last stage of the 
war had been but the prelude to an indefinable campaign which 
stretched darkly into the future — unless, indeed, the AUies were 
to acknowledge defeat. 

The crisis called out the noblest qualities of the Allied Powers, 
and that in itself was a guarantee of victory. But the foundations 
of popular thought had been shaken, and till the turn of the tide 
in July there were few willing to prophesy and none to dogmatize. 

282 



I9i8] THE MOOD OF THE COMBATANTS 283 

An air of expectation was abroad, for though reason seemed to 
point to a protracted campaign, the instinct of mankind argued 
otherwise. This was true of all the belligerents alike. The Ger- 
man people spoke of peace in the autumn — peace on their own 
terms ; the Allied peoples, while preparing for years of further 
campaigning, had a sense that these preparations would not be 
called for. All wars are fought under a time limit determined by- 
human endurance, and there was an instinct abroad that that 
limit was not far off. There was a feeling in the air of a climax 
approaching. The skies were dim and tenebrous, but behind the 
clouds men felt that there was light — either apocalyptic fires 
or the glow of a beneficent dawn. 

Our object in the present chapter is first to assess the mood 
in which the nations, while the end seemed yet afar oflf, yet waited 
instinctively for its speedy advent. In the second place, we must 
pick up the tangled threads in the East. Towards the end of a 
long struggle destiny seems to select one area in which the ultimate 
battle is waged. This in truth had always been the West. From 
2 1 St March onward the wildest of military dreamers, whose fancies 
had hitherto ranged throughout the globe, admitted that there 
the final lists had been set. But the confusion in the East could 
not be without its effect on the Western campaign, for it must 
attract to itself not only the troops and guns of the Allies, but 
much of the time and thought of the Allied leaders. Again, Ger- 
many had so mortgaged her assets in the East that what did not 
help her to victory there would beyond doubt hasten her progress 
to defeat. If Russia proved a handicap instead of an aid, if Bul- 
garia and Turkey fell out of the contest, it would go far worse 
with her than if she had never sent a man beyond the Vistula and 
the Danube. Finally, there could be no universal peace until 
the Eastern tangle was unravelled, and on the situation left there 
at the close of war depended the ease or the difficulty of the recon- 
structive task laid upon the civilized world. 

In analyzing the popular mood it will be well to select two 
types of the belligerents — Britain and Germany. France and 
Italy were invaded, and were, so to speak, in the battle-line. Their 
intimate peril subordinated all other questions to the urgent one 
of defence, and, though they had their malcontents and doctri- 
naires, the strong discipline of self-protection held them quiescent. 
America was like a young man girding on his armour for battle. 
Her spirit was that of Europe in 1914 ; she had not yet felt the 
sad satiety of war, she was absorbed in earnest preparation, and 



284 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [May 

President Wilson, after the crisis of March, had abandoned his 
exploration of the fundamentals of policy for the more urgent 
task of stimulating and directing the effort of his countrymen. 
Among the Central Powers, Bulgaria was tired and apathetic; 
Turkey broken by suffering out of the semblance of a nation ; 
and Austria flaccid with hunger and internal dissolution. Ger- 
many had always been the centre of the ill-assorted confederacy, 
and now she was more than ever its sole support. If we under- 
stand her mood we shall understand the policy of the Central 
Powers. Britain, too, was a mirror for the Allies. Her freedom 
from invasion gave her a certain detachment ; yet she was not 
less deeply concerned in the war than Italy or France, for her 
safety, nay, her existence, depended upon victory. We can see 
in the free expression of her popular opinion the exact reflection 
not only of the Allies' moods, but of their many and varied ideals 
and policies. 



The catastrophe of March had, as we have seen, roused to a 
high pitch the courage and resolution of every class of the British 
people. It was like the case of a runner who, when far advanced 
in a race, gets his "second wind." But a second wind does not 
mean that fatigue has gone, or that the limbs are as vigorous as 
at the start. The months between March and August 191 8 were 
for Britain the most critical in the war, and made extreme demand 
on her stability and fortitude. Below the splendid renascence of 
the early spring there lay a great weariness. Behind her stout 
front there were strained nerves and tired minds. Effort had 
ceased to be joy, and had become a grim duty — a dangerous phase 
for the enemy, had he understood it, for Britain has never been so 
formidable as when she has been heart-sick of a business. She 
wore down Philip of Spain and Louis XIV. and Napoleon because 
she continued to fight when she would have given anything for 
peace — anything except her soul. The strain was shown in gusty 
minor strifes which blew up like desert sandstorms. An instance 
was the Maurice affair in May. Sir Frederick Maurice, the Director 
of Military Operations at the War Office, published on 7th May 
a letter in the newspapers, in which he flatly contradicted certain 
statements made by the Prime Minister as to the strength of the 
British front before the attack of 21st March. The letter was 
intended to provoke a parliamentary inquiry; but Mr. Lloyd 



I9i8] OPINION IN BRITAIN 285 

George had no difficulty in providing in the House of Commons 
a kind of answer to its statements, and, after a curiously inept 
defence of General Maurice by Mr. Asquith, made the matter a 
question of confidence in the Government, and secured a large 
majority. The vote given in the Maurice debate became a test 
of loyalty to the Prime Minister — a preposterous result, for 
General Maurice's indictment was almost literally accurate, and 
Mr. Lloyd George's defence, which was not without cogency, should 
have been based on other foundations than the denial of indubitable 
facts. Thewholecontroversy was a jumble of half-truths. Many 
soldiers were justifiably irritated with the Government ; the Gov- 
ernment, on the other hand, had a right to claim a tolerant judg- 
ment in their supreme difficulties; but the affair showed how 
thin had worn the sheathing on the nerves of large classes in 
Britain. 

It was the same with Labour. The unselfish co-operation of 
March and April began to show rifts so soon as the worst danger 
was past. It would have been a miracle if it had been otherwise, 
for the working-man was as weary as other people. In July 
things came to a head in a serious dispute among munition workers 
and a threat of a general strike, which was averted by the prompt 
action of the Government. More serious still was the strike of the 
London police in the beginning of August, when men serving under 
discipline extorted from the Government concessions which, whether 
right or wrong on the merits, should never have been granted to 
what was in effect a mutiny. British Labour has one enduring 
characteristic : it is patriotically united in the face of a grave peril, 
as happened in March ; it is united, as after August, when victory 
is dawning ; but in periods of stagnation it grows restless and self- 
conscious — a pathological state and not a reasoned policy and a 
condition which it shared with classes which had not its excuse. 

Of pacificism in the common sense of the word there was little, 
for Britain does not talk of peace when things are going ill with 
her. A certain type of shallow intellectual hankered after nego- 
tiations with the enemy ; read miracles of moderation into every 
evasive sentence of Czernin or Kuhlmann ; and denied the possi- 
bility of a decision in the field. But he found only a scanty 
audience. The ordinary man, with a truer wisdom, saw that the 
Allies must win decisively in battle or acknowledge an unqualified 
defeat. He was not distracted by the enthusiasts who preached 
a League of Nations while they refused to lay its foundations, or 
dreamed of an Internationale when the foes of internationalism 



286 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [July 

were still at large, or who in their folly conceived that the canker 
of civilization could be cured by laying the axe of Bolshevism to the 
tree. The common sense of the country was accurately expressed 
in a letter which Lord Hugh Cecil published on 15th August : — 
"The war must be fought till it end in the submission of Ger- 
many. By submission I do not in the least mean destruction. . . . 
We do not seek to destroy Germany, but we seek to force Germans 
to recognize that they have been defeated, and to submit to the 
authority of a world stronger than they. . . . And submission 
cannot be attained by negotiations such as are now suggested to 
us. Negotiation at the present time might lead to an agreement 
as between equals, but not to the submission of a defeated nation 
to superior power. And until that submission is made it is idle 
to hope that the German Government will turn from the false 
gods it worships. I dare say there are wise and good Germans 
who hate the system of blood and iron. But they have no power, 
and will have none so long as that system maintains its repute. 
Our business is not to suffer it to save its credit, but to make its 
failure plain according to its own standards. Moloch must be 
humiliated in the sight of all his votarie? if they are to accept a 
purer faith." 

On one matter during the spring and summer the mind of 
the British people was becoming more at ease. The submarine 
had been Germany's most trusted weapon, and while its violence 
continued unabated a profound uneasiness filled the land, which 
no success of our armies could allay. It was fortunate that the 
darkest hour in France should synchronize with a real mitigation 
of this peril. In the early months of 1918 there were many 
naval losses. The liner Tuscania, carrying American troops, 
was torpedoed off the Irish coast on the night of 5th February; 
the hospital ship Glenart Castle was sunk in the Bristol Channel 
on the morning of 26th February ; in June U-boats were raiding 
small craft off the New Jersey and Delaware coasts ; on 20th July 
the large White Star liner Justicia was lost after a stout fight in 
Irish waters. As yet, too, British shipbuilding was not keeping 
pace with the losses, for in the first quarter of 191 8 there was still a 
large adverse balance against us. But by midsummer our output 
was steadily growing and our losses steadily shrinking, while the 
progress of the United States in production was advancing by leaps 
and bounds. Meantime, the British Navy by countless ways was 
at length coming to its own. On 7th August the Prime Minister 
told the House of Commons that that Navy was, at the outbreak 



I9i8] THE FOURTH OF JULY 287 

of war, the largest in the world, with a tonnage of two and a half 
millions, that now it was eight millions, and that, as a proof of its 
activity, in June it had steamed eight million miles. He added 
that 150 German submarines had already been destroyed, more 
than half in the course of the past year, and on 6th September 
the Admiralty, in proof, published the names of their commanding 
officers. 

Another fact made at this time for optimism in the British 
temper. This was the growing understanding with America. 
The contact with her soldiers in France, the contact with the 
many thousand Americans who came to these islands on war 
duties, and the appreciation of America's superb activity, combined 
to create a real warmth of feeling towards the other great branch 
of the English-speaking people. The Fourth of July, America's 
Independence Day, was celebrated throughout Britain as a popular 
festival ; for it is her illogical fashion, after a deserved defeat, 
to join with the victors in acclaiming the justice of their triumph. 
Mr. Wilson, indeed, enjoyed at the time in these islands a popular 
repute higher than he possessed in his own land. In the eyes of 
many he had clarified the issues of the war, and so saved it from 
developing into a blind contest of force, and the tactless autocracy 
of some of his methods was not within the cognizance of his British 
admirers. In Mr. Walter Page, too, America had an ambassador 
who in the highest qualities of a plenipotentiary was not excelled 
by any of his brilliant predecessors. His shrewd, kindly wisdom 
had in the past three years smoothed away many difficulties 
and the charm of his strong and sincere and most generous spirit 
did more to reveal his country to Britain than a decade of propa- 
ganda. 

II 

Before we turn to Germany it is desirable to review the situa- 
tion in the East during the spring and summer of 191 8. It is, in- 
deed, obligatory, for thither Germany looked for the material gains 
of which her victory in the West would give her quiet possession ; 
and as difficulties thickened in that quarter the loss of this hope 
was to play a major part in that breakdown of her "home front" 
which attended her breakdown in the field. 

By the end of March the Eastern Allied line, which a year 
before had been continuous from the Baltic to the Persian Gulf, 
had largely disappeared. It is unnecessary in these pages to record 



288 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [July 

in detail the mutations of each section — from the Baltic to the 
Bukovina, from the Bukovina to the Danube mouths, from the 
Black Sea to the Tigris. Suffice it to say that the Russian wing 
had been destroyed, the right centre in Rumania put out of action, 
the left centre in the Caucasus reduced to chaos, and General Mar- 
shall in Mesopotamia left to fight his battles without the support of 
allies, and no longer a partner in a continuous front. The result 
was that Finland had become an independent state and an ally 
of Germany's ; Germany was advancing between the Baltic and 
the Black Sea as she pleased ; the Caucasus was torn with internal 
dissensions, and the Turks were pushing eastward towards the 
Caspian and southward into Persia ; while throughout Trans- 
caspia and Siberia combinations of Bolsheviks and Austro-German 
prisoners were following their own sweet will ; and the British 
in Mesopotamia had not only the enemy to the north of them, 
but had on their right flank a distracted Persia, which at any 
moment might become an enemy Power under Turkish and German 
officers. It was a situation which none of the Allies, least of all 
Britain, could aflford to neglect. A German Finland would give 
the Central Powers control of the bridge between the Baltic and 
the Arctic seas. Unless help came, Russian nationalism would be 
crushed under the twin weights of Bolshevism and Teutonism. 
The gap of the Caspian offered to the enemy a highway into Central 
Asia, where already he had his outposts. The turning of the 
Persian flank not only placed Marshall in a position of great 
danger, but threatened to put a match to the inflammable stuff 
around the Indian border. 

There were, indeed, encouraging elements in the problem. 
The Murman coast and Archangel were open to our ships, and 
there we might form a bridgehead on which the Russian nation- 
alist forces in the north could be based. The Czecho-Slovaks lay 
along the line of the middle Volga, though cut off from the north 
by a solid wedge of Bolshevism. In the Don and Kuban provinces 
east of the Sea of Azov the Cossacks and the nationalists were 
strong. In the Caucasus the Allies had many potential friends 
who might, with a little help from outside, prevent the Turks 
from making their way to the Caspian. The Czecho-Slovaks were 
at Vladivostok and also in western Siberia, though the country 
between was in Bolshevik hands. In Mesopotamia Marshall had 
little to fear from an attack down the Tigris, and might be able 
to detach troops to keep Persia quiet, hold the south shore of the 
Caspian, and even defend Baku from the Turks. Allenby in Pales- 



I9i8] THE PROBLEM IN THE EAST 289 

tine was secure, and at any moment might begin to exercise a 
pressure which would distract the Turk from his Caucasian adven- 
ture. There were elements of hope, too, in connection with the 
internal politics of Turkey and Bulgaria, but for the present we 
may confine our attention to the military aspect of the situation. 

The plain task of the Allies was to reconstitute the Eastern front. 
It was a thankless, almost hopeless task, but by every law of 
policy and strategy it had to be attempted. For success it was 
necessary to occupy the Murman coast to keep guard on Finland ; 
to land troops at Archangel and push south from that bridgehead 
to join hands with the Czecho-Slovaks on the Volga ; to assist 
by some means or other Alexeiev and Denikin to continue the 
Czecho-Slovak left wing to the Caspian ; to intervene in east 
Siberia, so as to control with the help of the Czecho-Slovaks the 
whole Trans-Siberian railway, and provide communications for 
supplying the front on the Volga ; to send troops to Transcaspia 
to hold the enemy there in check ; to assist the Armenians and 
Georgians to resist the Turk in the Caucasus ; and to continue the 
line of defence from the Caspian through north Persia till it met 
Marshall's front in Mesopotamia. Such was the ideal towards 
which the Allied staffs laboured. All of it was common sense 
and sound policy ; much of it was impracticable, considering the 
limited numbers at their command and their intense preoccupation 
in the West. A more difficult problem, perhaps, never confronted 
an alliance, and it was not made simpler by a certain divergence 
of political views among the Allied Governments. To build up the 
Eastern front with the few divisions spared with difficulty from 
other battlefields might well have seemed as impossible as to stem 
the Atlantic with a broom. Yet the attempt was gallantly made ; 
and if it failed to achieve a lasting success, it yet helped to check 
the enemy's main ambition, and to strip him of his most confident 
hope. Let us take the long front from north to south, and consider 
in turn the position in European Russia, Siberia, the Caucasus, 
Persia, and Mesopotamia. 

The record of the doings of the Bolsheviks immediately after 
the Treaty of Brest Litovsk was partly tragedy and partly opera 
bouffe. It was tragic because of the hideous sufferings of Russia, 
and comic from the failure alike of the Bolshevik tyranny and its 
German exploiters. During April and May Trotski sulked and 
raved in his tent, threatened vengeance against Germany, half- 
persuaded the Allies that he and his friends represented an undying 
hostility to German aims, and made abortive efforts to raise a 



290 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [July 

Red Army to defy the invaders. But presently came the menace 
of the Czecho-Slovaks, which Germany was forced to treat with 
respect. She made a bargain with Lenin, undertaking not to 
advance farther east than a certain line from the Gulf of Fin- 
land to the Black Sea, so that Trotski's new Red Army would be 
able to give undivided attention to the danger on the Volga. 
But she found that she had stumbled on a hornet's nest. In 
no part of her new sphere of activity did things go well during 
the summer. In Finland, which she regarded as now her own 
preserve, and proposed to endow with a German kinglet, Red 
Guards and White Guards continued their struggle ; and when 
the former were beaten, there came the threat of the British from 
Murman. In Russia itself there seemed no substance hard enough 
for her steel to bite upon. Trotski was now, where Germany was 
concerned, sufficiently tame ; but his writ ran in narrow bounds, 
and he was faced everywhere with hatred, conspiracy, and anarchy. 
The honest elements in Russia were struggling to draw together, 
struggling for the most part in vain, for they were widely scattered, 
and had few leaders ; but their efforts gravely impeded the German 
machine. For the stifif German soldiers, and the supple German 
diplomats it was like building on sand ; the foundations were 
sucked in before the first stones could be laid of the superstructure. 
A Bolshevik ambassador was sent to Berlin ; a German ambassador. 
Count Mirbach, was dispatched to Moscow ; but on 7th July 
Count Mirbach was assassinated, and his successor, Helfferich, 
paid a hurried visit and then departed from so insalubrious a 
habitation. The most that Germany could do was to lend troops 
to stiffen the Red Army now disputing with the Czecho-Slovaks 
on the Volga. 

In the Ukraine she made a disastrous blunder. She showed 
too openly her hand, and methodically set about plundering the 
place of supplies. She obtained enough to tide over the worst of 
the shortage in Austria, but presently the supply stopped, for the 
peasants rose in revolt, and everywhere there were murders and 
guerilla war, culminating in the assassination of Field -Marshal 
von Eichhorn, formerly of the X. Army, on 30th July, in the 
streets of Kiev. The Ukraine had become a German province 
under a hetman, General Skoropadski, who was nominated by 
Berlin ; conscription had been decreed ; the peasants had been 
forced to return property taken from the landlords the previous 
autumn, and compelled to cultivate their land for the benefit of 
Germany. The result was a jacquerie and universal resistance, 



I9i8] THE MURDER OF THE TSAR 291 

and the effect was felt over the whole of Russia. Had Germany 
handled the matter with discretion she might have won a great 
triumph ; for the moderate parties in Russia had lost most of their 
ideals and sought only peace, and even men like Miliukov inclined 
to favour the German faction because it promised a relief from 
anarchy. But Germany's treatment of the Ukraine had been 
too barefaced to leave any doubt as to her policy. She had entered 
Russia to bring not peace but fetters, and the spectacle convinced 
the bulk of the people that the German cure for Bolshevism was 
little better than the disease. 

As for Lenin and Trotski, they had now sold themselves to their 
masters, and provided proof of what Kerenski in June told the 
British Labour Conference, that "the actions of the Bolsheviks 
made them the vanguard of triumphant German militarism." The 
actual leadership was in the hands of Lenin, who had greater nerve 
and a steadier balance than the other, and knew more precisely 
what he wanted. He cared nothing for the dismemberment of 
Russia ; he did not seek peace ; he welcomed destruction, for only 
by the road of universal destruction could the world reach that 
communism of which he dreamed. The advent of the Czecho- 
slovaks and the imminence of Allied intervention brought the 
wildest spirits to the front, and what had formerly been a class 
tyranny became also a class vendetta and an orgy of brigandage 
and murder. A commission* sat in permanent session to check 
counter-revolutionary activities, and this became a secret tribunal 
whose findings none dared question, which did to death innocent 
men and women in hundreds of thousands, and which was served 
by a Red Secret Police, more cruel and bloodstained than even the 
Okhrana of the Tsardom. 

To this last body, rather than to Lenin, is to be attributed the 
hideous fate of the Imperial household. Till August 191 7 the 
Emperor and his family had been under guard at Tsarskoe Selo, 
and were then removed by Kerenski's orders to Tobolsk, in Siberia, 
for greater security in the uncertainty of the political situation. 

There they lived in comparative peace and comfort, the health of 
the Tsarevitch slowly getting worse, till in April 191 8 they were 
removed to the Urals, and imprisoned in the house of a notary in 
Ekaterinburg. There is reason to believe that had Nicholas been 
willing to sign the Treaty of Brest Litovsk he might have been 

♦The Tchrezvychaika (popularly called the Tcheka), or "Extraordinary 
Commission for combating Counter-revolution." This and the Tsik, or Cen- 
tral Executive Committee, made up the chief mechanism of Bolshevik 
administration. 



292 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Aug. 

restored to the throne by Germany and her agents, who then 
dominated the Bolshevik Tsik. He was true to his honour, and 
he and his household were accordingly left to the tender mercies 
of the Jews of the Tsik and the Red Secret Police. These latter 
knew that the Tsardom was still too powerful a sentiment in the 
Russian people for any open punishment of the Imperial family, 
so they resorted to midnight killing. A Jew, Sverdlov, seems to 
have been the chief agent of the deed at headquarters in Moscow, 
and another Jew, Yurovski, the actual murderer. On the night 
of 1 6th July the Emperor and Empress, their son and daughters, 
and a few attendants — eleven persons in all — were taken to a 
little room in the basement of the Ekaterinburg house, and there 
were pistolled by Yurovski and his Magyar accomplices, and their 
bodies burned in a pit in the neighbouring woods. The end of the 
Romanovs had not the dignity of the fall of the Bourbons, Secretly, 
sordidly, they were done to death in the wilds by rufhans and 
madmen, and the world heard only by accident of their fate. For 
the sick boy, for the poor broken-hearted princesses, for the 
distraught Empress, and for the gentle, weary Emperor it was 
a happy release : — 

"He hate^ him much 

That would upon the rack of this tough world 

Stretch him out longer." 

But the horror and squalor of the tragedy showed the depth 
to which once proud Russia had fallen. 

From that date the rule of the Bolsheviks lost all semblance 
of decency. A handful of armed bandits, backed up by Lettish 
and Chinese mercenaries, did what they pleased with the relics 
of the State and the lives of the people. The cities of Russia 
fell into the condition which Dr. Johnson has described — "the 
streets full of soldiers accustomed to plunder, and the garrets of 
scribblers accustomed to lie." During August, in Moscow and 
Petrograd, Allied officials and residents were arrested wholesale, 
and suffered every indignity and privation. But their sufferings 
were nothing to what was endured by unfortunate Russians who 
incurred the suspicion of the Tcheka. Armed bands of miscreants 
paraded the streets "smelling out" suspects like African witch- 
doctors. On 31st August Captain Cromie, the British naval 
attach6, who as submarine commander had won the Cross of 
St. George, was murdered in the British Embassy at Petrograd. 
After that, terror was unloosed, mainly in Petrograd, where Zinoviev, 
the president of the Soviet, desired to rival the fame of Hubert. 



I9i8] THE BOLSHEVIK SATURNALIA 293 

Priests, officers, officials, merchants, and employers perished in 
scores daily. A certain Uritski, appointed a special commissioner 
to "combat the counter-revolution," called upon his men to shoot 
down any suspected of bourgeois sentiments. He won the name 
of the "new Marat," and, like Marat, perished at the hand of a 
Charlotte Corday. Lenin, too, was seriously wounded, and these 
efforts at retribution fanned the fury of the tyrants. At Uritski's 
funeral Zinoviev declared that a thousand bourgeois lives must 
pay for any such attempt. On ist September the official organ 
of the Red Army announced: "We will make our hearts cruel, 
hard, and immovable, so that no mercy will enter them, and so 
that they will not grieve at the sight of a sea of enemy blood. We 
will let loose the floodgates of that sea. Without mercy, without 
sparing, we will kill our enenies. For the blood of Lenin and 
Uritski, Zinoviev and Volodarski, let there be floods of the blood 
of the bourgeois — more blood, and ever more blood." 

Amid this carnival of devilry Lenin found time, on 6th Septem- 
ber, to sign three further treaties with Germany, giving security 
for the satisfaction of her claims. The Baltic Provinces, whose 
liberty had once been dear to Trotski's heart, were to have their 
frontiers defined as Germany pleased ; Baku and its oil region were 
made a German preserve ; and for her gracious permission to the 
Bolsheviks to remain in a truncated Russia an immediate payment 
was to be made of £50,000,000 in goods and £300,000,000 in gold. 
This from a bankrupt land throughout which industry was at a 
standstill and famine was stalking ! In part it was policy, the 
policy of those who are convinced that they must destroy before 
they can build. This is the defence put forward by those who find 
certain rags of virtue in Lenin — that he was single-hearted in his 
passionate communism, and that he had the courage to face the 
means implied in the end which he had set himself. But it is a 
defence which breaks down ; for the day was to come when, after 
reducing the country to a sty and a desert, he was to recant his 
principles and plead for the revival of capitalism in order to 
continue in power, and was thus to earn, in addition to the 
world's abhorrence, the world's contempt. But in large part it 
was madness, the madness of men released from all discipline, and 
hot to avenge their vanity on whatever in the past had thwarted 
them, whatever reproved because of its beauty or greatness or 
long descent. In all their mania, too, there was a strain of 
despair, as of those who knew that their time was short and 
had forgotten all else in their lust for destruction. It recalled 



294 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Aug. 

the amazing debate of the Committee of Public Safety early on 
the morning of September 3, 1793, when the death of Marie 
Antoinette was decreed, and Hubert opened his heart. "I cannot 
see clearly when it is night. I cannot see roses where there 
are only daggers. I know not whether there remains to you 
any hope of the Republic or the Constitution, or of the safety 
of your persons ; but I know this, that if you have any you are 
greatly deceived. We shall all perish. It cannot be otherwise. 
We live for nothing but vengeance, and that may be immense. 
In perishing let us leave to our enemies the germs of their own 
death, and in France so great a destruction that the memory of 
it will never die." 

From June onward the Bolsheviks were recognized as the 
declared foes of the Allies. But to bring help to the Russian 
nationalists and the Czecho-Slovaks seemed a wellnigh impossible 
task, for all inlets to Russia were closed save by way of the Arctic 
and the Pacific. The Allied policy of intervention was based 
on two incontrovertible facts — that the Bolsheviks were open 
partisans of Germany, and that the Allies were bound in honour 
to assist the Czecho-Slovaks and those Russian elements who 
were maintaining the front against the common enemy. They 
desired scrupulously to avoid any interference with Russia's 
internal policy — even with Bolshevism, except in so far as it 
acted as Germany's agent. Especially they did not wish to an- 
tagonize the Soviets, where these represented the will of the people. 
But it was obviously a most delicate task, since many Russians 
who were honestly anti-German held also fiercely partisan views 
on domestic policy, and opposition to Germany was scarcely a 
link sufficiently strong in itself to keep monarchists, bourgeois, and 
all the varieties of socialist working in harmony. The Allies were 
certain to be drawn into situations where they might seem to be 
taking sides in Russia's private disputes. The position was not 
made easier by the fact that many among the Allied peoples were 
strongly opposed to armed intervention : some holding that it 
was the same kind of blunder as Britain had made in the early wars 
of the French Revolution, and would only strengthen Bolshevism ; 
others that it was a military error to dissipate resources when 
every man was wanted in the West ; others, who had the support 
of the American Government, that the only wise kind of inter- 
vention was economic and philanthropic, forgetting that a trade 
circular and even baskets of food are poor comfort to a man if 
the knife of the enemy be at his throat. These difficulties made it 



I9i8] MURMAN AND ARCHANGEL 295 

likely that, though the case for armed assistance was unanswerable, 
that assistance would be given slowly and feebly. This was in fact 
what happened. The Allies escaped no one of the disadvantages 
of intervention, and, because their forces were too few, they did not 
reap the fruits. Let us recount briefly the main stages. 

In February and March 191 8 the British effected a naval 
landing at Murman, at the head of the Kola inlet, the terminus 
of the new railway to Petrograd, and at Pechenga, a hundred miles 
farther west, the nearest Russian port to the Finnish frontier. 
There was no serious opposition, and soon the arrival of French and 
American cruisers made the occupation international. The local 
soviet worked harmoniously with the Allies, and the landing was, 
in fact, approved of by Trotski. Then came the German alliance 
with Finland, who was promised the Russian territory lying 
between her eastern borders and the White Sea. To meet this 
threat Allied reinforcements arrived in June, under General Poole. 
Presently the Bolsheviks changed their policy, and demanded the 
departure of all Allied forces from Russia — a demand refused by 
the Murman provisional Government, who thereupon threw in 
their lot with the Allies. Then followed for three months attacks 
from the Finnish borders, which were beaten off by Allied troops and 
local levies, till Finland's enthusiasm for conquest waned and 
Germany's preoccupations elsewhere made her assistance impossible. 
The problem at Murman was always simple. There was little 
trouble with the local population, and the enemy was too remote 
and the country too difficult to make invasion easy. The occupa- 
tion served the useful purpose of checking German intrigue in Fin- 
land and giving the Allies a bridgehead on Russian soil, but the 
isolation of that section of coast deprived it of strategic importance. 

It was different with Archangel, which General Poole occupied 
on 2nd August by a surprise attack. There lay vast quantities 
of war material sent by the Allies to Russia, which Lenin's Govern- 
ment was busy commandeering and selling to the Germans ; and 
there, too, the local Bolsheviks had imposed their crazy type of 
misgovernment upon a starving province. The Allies' business 
was to feed the people, to prevent the disposal of war stores to 
Germany, to establish a free Russian Government in the area, 
and to push southward to join hands with the right wing of the 
Czecho-Slovaks west of the Urals. But the troops sent were 
wholly inadequate for the purpose, and the military operations up 
the river Dvina and the Vologda railway, conducted by British, 
French, American, and Russian detachments, failed to effect the 



296 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Aug. 

desired junction. Moreover, there was endless trouble with the 
Russian troops and with the temporary Government — consisting 
of the members originally elected to the Constituent Assembly — 
which it was the first business of the Allies to establish. The 
whole Archangel affair was an example of how a wise policy can be 
wrecked by half-heartedness. The gallant efforts of General 
Poole in no way assisted the Czecho-Slovaks, and they brought 
little succour to the unfortunate provincials. By establishing a 
front astride the Dvina we cut off Archangel from her natural 
source of food supply, the Russian interior, and so saddled ourselves 
with the task of feeding the population by supplies carried over 
some thousands of miles of sea to a port which was ice-bound in 
winter. On the whole this duty was fulfilled, but a task which 
had been entered upon for high strategic reasons ended by becoming 
a mere business of commissariat. 

The Siberian situation was the most hopeful, and at the same 
time the most perplexing. Its elements were the Czecho-Slovak 
forces, about 120,000 strong, some at Vladivostok, and some on 
the western borders of Siberia, while between them lay the railway, 
held in large patches by Bolsheviks and Austro-German prisoners ; 
a number of sporadic Russian nationalist troops, some in the Far 
East, some at points along the line, and a considerable number, 
under Alexeiev, in the Don and Kuban provinces,* but separated 
by a wedge of Bolsheviks from the left wing of the Czecho-Slovaks 
in the west ; various Russian governments, springing up through- 
out Siberia, and often dissolving a day or two after their creation ; 
the sympathy of the mass of the Siberian people, who desired order, 
and had little leaning towards the Lenin regime; and the Allies, 
toying for long with the notion of sending help through Vladivostok 
and finally dispatching troops, which, as at Archangel, were too few 
to meet the need, and were further embarrassed by the lack of a 
central command. Japan was willing enough to intervene in eastern 
Siberia, but professed no interest in the western battle-ground ; 
while America was never fully convinced of the wisdom of the step, 
and encumbered such aid as she gave with rigid conditions. Out 
of such a tangle it would have been a miracle if there had emerged 
either a clear policy or vigorous action. The Czecho-Slovaks from 
first to last had to bear the brunt of the contest themselves. The 

* This was the Volunteer Army organized by Alexeiev and Komilov. Its 
story is an amazing romance, for it began by being utterly without equipment, 
and it could only arm itself by defeating and plundering the enemy. Yet as 
long as its founders lived it never failed in an enterprise. 



I9i8] SIBERIA 297 

diplomatic pourparlers which continued all summer revealed the 
weakness of an alliance in any far-flung scheme of strategy. 

On 3rd August the British contingent reached Vladivostok 
to find the Czecho-Slovaks hard pressed, various local governments 
which had to be conciliated, and various Russian leaders of con- 
dottieri who needed delicate handling. Two days later they had 
joined the Czechs on the river Ussuri, north of Vladivostok. Mean- 
time the Czechs, under General Diterichs,* had taken Irkutsk, and 
controlled most of the railway from the Volga to Lake Baikal, 
but without immediate Allied help they could not hope to maintain 
their ground. On I2th August the first part of the Japanese con- 
tingent, under General Otani, landed at Vladivostok, where French 
troops had preceded them ; and the first Americans appeared on 
the i6th. The situation in eastern Siberia now began to improve. 
The Japanese reinforced the Ussuri front, and by the 30th the 
enemy was in full retreat towards Khabarovsk, while the Czechs at 
Lake Baikal were holding their own, and controlled all the railway 
east of the lake. By this time they had been formally recognized 
by all the Allies as a belligerent nation, and since the Czech control 
now extended to the Pacific, Bohemia, as in Shakespeare, had 
a sea coast. On 2nd September the Czechs, moving east from 
Baikal, joined hands with Semenov's Cossacks moving westward, 
while the Japanese had routed the Bolsheviks on the Amur railway. 
Communication was now open between Vladivostok and the Volga. 
On the 5th Khabarovsk fell to Otani. The enemy in Siberia had 
virtually collapsed, and the way was clear for the Allies to push 
west to the vital Volga front. 

But the smallness of their numbers, their lack of unity, and the 
endless civil difificulties about railway control and the recognition of 
new-born Russian governments, made any swift action impossible. 
Something had been gained, for Siberia had been won back for the 
moment from both Bolshevik and German ; but the Czechs in the 
west were still in desperate straits. At the beginning of September 
they held a line along the Volga, running from Volsk, north of 
Saratov, by Samara and Simbirsk, to Kazan, with a detachment 
on the northern line between Ekaterinburg and Perm. But their 
ammunition was running low, and presently they lost Volsk and 
Simbirsk and Kazan. They were at the most, with their Russian 
contingents, some 60,000 strong, and with German aid the Bolshe- 

* He was originally Chief of Staff to Radko Dmitrieff ; afterwards Director 
of Military Operations, first on the south-western front and then at General 
Headquarters. 



298 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Aug. 

viks had against them a force of well over 100,000. The enemy had 
18,000 troops between General Poole and the Czechs in the Ekat- 
erinburg area, and a large army around Kharkov and Bielgorod 
to advance to the Volga and prevent a junction with Alexeiev 
on the Don. Moreover, out of their scanty reserves, the Czechs 
had to maintain garrisons in western Siberia. For tenacity and 
courage they had few superiors ; but they were fighting a hopeless 
battle, and must inevitably retire towards the Urals. Yet for 
the moment they had preserved Siberia from anarchy, and they 
provided a barrier against Germany's rapid exploitation of Russia's 
disorders which might have otherwise malignly influenced the 
battle in France. 

The story of Transcaucasia at this period is one of the most 
confused in the war, and it cannot be dissociated from the obscure 
happenings in Transcaspia and Central Asia, for it was to the 
Caucasus that Germany looked for an alley to a new Asian domin- 
ion. The Russian Revolution of March 191 7 had produced a 
national self-consciousness throughout the country, and, under the 
influence of Georgia, politically the most mature of the peoples, the 
independence of Transcaucasia was proclairhed in November, and a 
general Transcaucasian Government was formed in a republic to 
include Georgians, Armenians, and Tartars. Meantime there was 
anarchy among the Russian troops of the Caucasus, and Prjevalsky, 
who had succeeded Yudenitch, was compelled to ask Turkey for 
an armistice. The advance of the Turks began to weaken the 
allegiance of the Tartars to the new Government, and in March 
191 8 came the Brest Litovsk treaty, making over Batum, Kars, 
and Ardahan to Turkey. These cessions were a serious blow to 
the Georgians, but they had no alternative except to submit. 
Presently Turkey increased her demands beyond the Brest clauses, 
and at a conference held in Batum in May the Georgian delegates 
refused to accept them. The Transcaucasian Government had now 
ceased to exist ; an independent Armenian republic of Erivan was 
proclaimed under Turkish protection ; a Tartar republic on the 
same terms, which included Baku, was established in Azerbaijan ; 
and Georgia was compelled to appeal to Germany. 

Turkey, it was clear, intended to deal high-handedly with Trans- 
caucasia, and this Germany had no mind to permit. She cared 
little what happened to the Armenians, but she was determined 
to control Baku and its oil-fields, and she had selected the 
Georgians to be her special allies and to play the part she had cast 



I9i8] BAKU AND THE CASPIAN 299 

for the Finns in the north and the Bulgarians in the Balkans. 
General Kress von Kressenstein was recalled from Syria — where 
he was soon to be sorely needed — and sent to Tiflis ; and German 
troops were marched into Georgia, while German trading houses 
endeavoured to secure every possible contract for the development 
of the region. An attempt was made in July to settle affairs with 
Turkey by a conference at Constantinople, and the Turks were 
categorically informed that they must abide by the Brest treaty. 
They paid no attention, continued their intrigues throughout the 
whole Caucasus, and advanced steadily on Baku. Their aim was 
to control the region by means of the Moslem inhabitants, and all 
Germany could effect was to withdraw Georgia from their influence, 
and to make a contract for oil with the Armenians and Bolsheviks 
of Baku, which would be worthless when the Turks took the town. 
The rift between Germany and her Moslem ally was widening. 

Such is a rough sketch of the main events of six months of plot 
and counterplot. It was a matter in which Britain was acutely 
interested, for not only did it directly affect her Mesopotamian 
campaign, but it prejudiced the whole future of Persia and the 
immediate hinterland of India. Events east of the Caspian were 
not less disquieting. After nearly a year of contest, the Soviet 
of Tashkend had beaten the Provincial Government at Kokand , 
and overpowered all resistance between Baku and Ferghana. In 
May Russian Turkestan had been declared a soviet republic. 
These events thrust the moderates into the background, and in- 
clined the Central Asian Moslems towards Germany and Turkey 
as possible deliverers from this thralldom, while Pan-Islamic and 
Pan-Turanian * propaganda took on a new lease of life. 

The nearest British troops were the small contingents in Persia 
and the army in Mesopotamia, and their problem was sufficiently 
complex. In the first place, the road from Bagdad to the Caspian 
must be kept open against the Turkish assaults from the west. 
In the second place, the advance of the Transcaspian Bolsheviks f 
must be checked. They had taken Merv, and if they had further 
success, they might be joined by the Turcomans, and the whole 
region be set ablaze. Berlin-Batum-Baku-Bokhara was a more 
dangerous enemy route to the Indian frontier than Berlin-Bagdad. 
Again, if the Eastern front was to be restored, the Caspian and its 

* Pan-Turanism was a Turkish movement for unity based upon race af- 
filiation, and not, like Pan-Islamism, upon religion. 

t The best of them were Austrian prisoners whose one object was to find a 
way home. 



300 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Aug. 

shipping must be mastered, and this meant that Baku must be 
held against the Turk. In August a British force was sent to 
Transcaspia, and after many vicissitudes succeeded in beating 
the Bolsheviks so soundly that they exchanged military oper- 
ations for local atrocities. This remote side-show had in reality 
immense political importance for Britain, since the line from Merv 
to Kushk ended within two days' ride of Herat, the key of 
Afghanistan. 

The defence of the Bagdad-Caspian route was maintained, 
in spite of the forays of Turkish cavalry from Tabriz and the cease- 
less raids of the hill tribes, notably the Jangalis around Resht. 
But the main interest centered in Baku, where, on the night of 
25th July, the Bolsheviks were overthrown and a new Government 
set up, which at once begged for British assistance. It had 
control at the moment of the shipping on the Caspian, and sent 
transports to Enzeli to fetch the small British force under Major- 
General Dunsterville,* which was now more than 1,000 miles from 
its base. The main difficulty was the shipping, for the Caspian 
Fleet was not to be relied on. The second was the quality of the 
local levies — 7,500 Armenians and 3,000 Russians — who proved 
wholly useless in action. On the 17th August the former refused 
to fight, and presently went home ; and a strong Turkish assault 
on 26th August was repulsed only by two British battalions, the 
North Staffords and the Worcesters. At the close of the month 
Dunsterville was in serious straits. The Turks, under Nuri, were 
round the town, and on the 31st the local troops failed once again, 
and the Warwicks had to cover their retirement. But meantime 
the Russian partisan leader, Bicharakov, who had done good work 
with Marshall in Mesopotamia, took Petrovsk, on the Caspian, 
200 miles to the north, and sent reinforcements to Baku. These 
arrived on 9th September ; and after further trouble with the 
Caspian Fleet, and a serious rearguard action on the 14th, the 
British evacuated Baku and reached Enzeli in safety — a result 
which must be considered fortunate in view of the immense risks 
run by the expedition. It had never been our intention to garrison 
Baku ourselves, but merely to assist the local Government to 
establish their hold on the oil-fields, and to secure the Caspian 
shipping. Since the local Government proved incompetent to 
organize resistance, there was nothing for Dunsterville to do but 

* Dunsterville was head of the Mission in northern Persia, which was largely 
engaged in famine relief. His headquarters at the time were at Kasvin. He 
had already made a reconnaissance to Enzeli in the spring of that year. 



I9I8] MARSHALL IN MESOPOTAMIA 301 

to leave the place to the Turks. It was a possession which they 
were not destined to enjoy for long. 

The situation around the Caspian condemned General Marshall 
to inactivity on his main battle-ground. He found himself involved 
in adventures many hundred miles from his front, and, while this 
duty continued, he must remain inactive on the Tigris, though 
much could be done to restore order and prosperity to the ancient 
land which his predecessor had redeemed. Sir Stanley Maude, as we 
have seen, died on November 18, 1917. In December an attack was 
delivered against the Turkish 13th Corps, holding the Diala and 
the Jebel Hamrin passes, and on the 5th it was driven towards 
Kifri with heavy casualties. On the 9th Khanikin was occupied. 
Early in the new year Marshall resolved to advance his front on 
the Euphrates, and to break up the new Turkish concentration 
two miles north of Hit. On 8th March it was discovered that the 
enemy had retired fifteen miles upstream to Salahiya, and next 
day Hit was occupied. The Turks were still retiring, and on the 
loth Marshall was in Salahiya. It was decided to try an encircling 
operation against the position at Khan Bagdadi, where the enemy 
proposed to stand. By 11.30 on the night of 26th March our 
cavalry had worked round his flanks and cut off his retreat ; and our 
infantry, attacking next morning at dawn, completed his discom- 
fiture. Major-General Sir H. T. Brooking occupied Haditha 
without trouble, and pursued the Turks for seventy-three miles 
along the Aleppo road, taking over 5,000 prisoners. In April 
the centre of interest moved to the Tigris, where we advanced along 
the Mosul road, taking Kifri on the 27th and over 1,000 prisoners, 
and entering Kirkuk on 7th May without opposition. Thereafter, 
as we have seen, came the distractions on the Caspian, and the 
arduous task of relief work on the Persian border ; and Marshall 
was forced to retire his right wing. It was not till October that 
he struck again on the Tigris, and then he had before him a breaking 
enemy. Meanwhile in southern Persia Sir Percy Sykes and a 
small Indian contingent had been besieged in Shiraz for the better 
part of the summer, and by his resolute resistance succeeded in 
checking the spread of revolt among the tribes and reading the 
rebels a memorable lesson. 

In reviewing these strange months we may say on the whole 
that for the Allies the balance leant to the credit side. They had 
failed, indeed, to recreate the Eastern front. At the most they 
had established it in patches, which left the strategical position 



302 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [June-Sept. 

precarious. Poole was still far from the Czecho-Slovaks on the 
Volga; the latter had both their flanks turned, and, though com- 
munications were now open behind them, they had as yet received 
no supports or supplies ; Kaledin in despair had taken his life, 
Kornilov had been killed by a casual shell, Alexeiev was dying, 
and Denikin could make little way north of the Caspian ; the 
Turks were in Baku ; Persia was still disruptive and wavering, 
and Marshall could not carry out his proper task for attending to 
her vagaries. Yet, if we compare the situation in September with 
that after the signature of the Brest Litovsk treaty in March, we 
shall see how far astray had gone Germany's forecast. She had 
by her conduct in the Ukraine involved herself in a mesh of troubles ; 
hopelessly antagonized such orderly elements as remained in 
Russia ; and got little in the way of supplies for herself. She had 
lost Siberia, and had seen the Czecho-Slovaks spring up like a new 
seed of Cadmus, to dispute with her the way to the East. She was 
at variance with Turkey over the Caucasus, as she was at variance 
with Bulgaria over the Dobrudja. She was rapidly losing Finland, 
the northern pillar of her Eastern ambitions. Above all, the two 
Prussianisms — one of which was called Bolshevism — had proved 
incompatible, in spite of their formal alliance. A belief in force 
and the tyranny of a class is insufficient as a bond of union, if 
the two parties differ as to the class ; and a common ruthlessness 
is more likely to lead to quarrels than to co-operation. 

Germany had played with fire, and it was about to scorch her 
hands. To her statesmen it was plain long before September 
that the policy which seemed so hopeful at Brest Litovsk had utterly 
failed. There was no make-weight to be found in the East against 
a stalemate in the West ; and if disaster befell in the West, from 
the East assuredly could come no succour. Nay, her oriental acqui- 
sitions would be like a millstone round the neck of a sinking man. 
When Prince Leopold of Bavaria and his staff crossed the Vis- 
tula by the Warsaw bridge on that July day in 1915, they saw the 
sky reddened with the fires of great burnings, which marked the 
retreat of Russia into her wild spaces. It was the sight which 
Napoleon had seen, and it carried the same omen. Russia had 
retired into the wastes both of the earth and of the spirit, and the 
invader had followed to his destruction. 

These things were beginning to be perceived by Germany's 
rulers. Their people had followed them blindly, and taken from 
them a confidence ready-made, for they had little reasoned assur- 
ance of their own. If the nerve of the leaders failed, there could 



I9i8] THE FALL OF KUHLMANN 303 

be no popular endurance. We pass now to consider the muta- 
tions of German opinion between March and September. 



Ill 

In April Burian, who in December 1916 had been displaced by 
Czernin, succeeded him as Foreign Minister of the Dual Monarchy. 
It was one of those aimless changes of personnel which proved 
nothing except the rudderless character of Austria's statecraft. 
She was drifting now in an archipelago of reefs — the nationalism 
of her subject peoples, the truculence of Hungary, a cracking 
army, a starving population. Without affection or hope she 
continued to follow the will of her stronger partner, and, though 
passionately desirous of peace, she had not the energy left to 
initiate any independent policy. It was very clear that Austria 
could not secede from the war of her own will, for she had no 
strength in her limbs ; but it was clear, too, that some day soon 
her limbs must collapse beneath her. 

In Germany the people had been moved to a sudden hope by 
the promises of February and the achievements of March and 
April. After that the hope waned, but a conviction endured — 
that there must be peace before the winter. The confidence of 
most of her statesmen had a longer life — till well into September. 
There were exceptions, and the most notable was Kuhlmann, the 
Foreign Minister. He had never favoured the spring offensive, 
and by May he had convinced himself of its futility. Accordingly, 
on 24th June, in the Budget debate in the Reichstag, he warned 
his hearers that it was idle to look for a decision in the field. It 
was a remarkable speech, which revealed the perturbation of 
Germany's civilian statesmen. He admitted the failure of the 
Eastern policy by granting that the Brest Litovsk treaty needed 
revising, and by candidly stating the dif^culties with Turkey. 
He repeated the old tale of Germany's innocence of any thought 
of world dominion ; she sought, he said, only the boundaries 
drawn for her by history, sufficient overseas possessions to cor- 
respond to her greatness, and freedom of trade with all continents 
over a free ocean. She was willing to listen to any honest offer 
of peace, and trusted that her opponents would approach her 
with a proposal ; but she would make no statement about Belgium 
which would bind her without binding her enemies. If one looked 
only to the battlefield no decision could be said to be in sight, and 



304 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Sept. 

he quoted Moltke very much to the purpose. Germany could not 
be conquered, but "in view of the enormous magnitude of this 
coalition war, in view of the number of Powers, including those 
from overseas, involved in it, an absolute end can hardly be ex- 
pected through military decisions alone." 

The speech was the swan-song of Kuhlmann's diplomacy, of 
the whole policy of the German politiques. It was an attempt to 
break to the German people the news that the promises of Feb- 
ruary could not be met, and that the boasting of the early summer 
had been idle. But Kuhlmann and those behind him had mis- 
calculated the popular mood. The drop was too sudden, and the 
outcry was violent. The Pan-Germans assailed the Foreign 
Minister as a partisan of Britain ; he was made to explain away 
his speech by an admission of the necessity of victory in the field, 
and the Imperial Chancellor made a further and most unflattering 
apology for the "accidental" indiscretions of his colleague. He 
found he had no supporters, for truculence had become the fashion 
again, and even Scheidemann bowed to it. He was made the 
scapegoat, too, of all the blunders of the Government, for, as von 
Holstein once observed to Prince Biilow :< "When the sun shines 
the Chancellor suns himself; when it rains, it is the Foreign 
Secretary who gets wet." On loth July he resigned, and was 
succeeded by Admiral von Hintze. He had been the exponent of 
the practicable, or what seemed to him the practicable, as against 
the megalomaniacs, and there was no place for him in a world 
where calculations were becoming as futile as dreams. Two 
days later Hertling, with the support of the Majority Socialists, 
declared the policy of Germany on confident lines, announcing, 
among other things, that she held Belgium as "a pawn for future 
negotiations," and thereby refusing what the Allies had always 
maintained to be pre-condition of any discussion of peace terms. 
The last German offensive was due in three days, and it was neces- 
sary to stiffen the spirit of the country. 

July came to a close, and with it any confidence that remained 
to the High Command. During August there were signs that it 
was the leaders in the fields rather than the politicians who wished 
to mitigate the arrogance which they had aforetime fostered. 
Hindenburg, now somewhat of a lay figure, found himself compelled 
early in September to issue a manifesto against the growing move- 
ment towards compromise. He chose to explain it by the success 
of Allied propaganda inside Germany — propaganda which it was 
the fashion to decry in the countries of origin, but which the 



I9i8] AUSTRIA'S PLEA FOR PEACE 305 

Germans had come to regard with uneasy respect. On 12th 
September the Vice-Chancellor, von Payer, made a curious speech 
in which, while declaring that he did not believe in a peace of 
conquest, he expounded Germany's terms in the fashion of a 
conqueror. There could be no handing back of Poland or Fin- 
land or the Baltic states to Russia, or any paring down of Ger- 
many's acquisitions in the East. "We can never permit any one 
to meddle with us in this matter from the standpoint of the present 
European balance of power, or rather British predominance. 
Just as little will we submit to the Entente, for its gracious 
approval or alteration, our peace treaties with the Ukraine, Russia, 
or Rumania. In the East we have peace, and it remains for us 
peace, whether it pleases our Western neighbours or not." 

These were brave words, but they were inopportune. The 
unhappy Government at Berlin might speak boldly one day, but 
the compulsion of events compelled it to change its tone on the 
morrow. On 14th September Germany made an offer of a separate 
peace to Belgium, who at once rejected it. She offered also to 
refrain from attacking Eastern Karelia if the Allied troops would 
withdraw from the Murman coast, having found it impossible to 
induce Finland to make any efforts to fight for the territory she 
had claimed. More significant still, Austria-Hungary addressed 
a Note to all belligerents and neutral states proposing a conference 
for a "non-binding confidential discussion" as to the possibility 
of peace. This offer, though Germany officially denied any con- 
nection with it, was undoubtedly made with her knowledge. The 
truth is, that Austria was desperate, and was approaching that 
condition when she must sue for peace on any terms. Germany 
was willing to permit the Note as a ballon d'essai; if it failed, she 
could save her dignity by repudiating any part in it ; if it suc- 
ceeded, it would give her the conference for which she had always 
intrigued. The reply of the Allies was instant and unequivocal, 
and it was that of Lucio's comrade in Measure for Measure — 
"Heaven grant us its peace, but not the King of Hungary's!" 
Mr. Balfour, on i6th September, asked pertinently what use 
would such a conference be, if the policy of the Central Powers 
was the policy of von Payer's speech of 12th September. That 
same day came America's answer: "The Government of the 
United States feels that there is only one reply which it can make 
to the suggestion of the Imperial Austro-Hungarian Government. 
It has repeatedly and with entire candour stated the terms on 
which the United States would consider peace, and can and will 



3o6 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Sept. 

entertain no proposal for a conference upon a matter concerning 
which it has made its position and purpose so plain." 

This, then, was the state of affairs in the third week of Septem- 
ber. The German people were in a mood of deep depression, care- 
less of the arguments booming above their heads, but clinging 
blindly to the certainty of a peace of some kind before the winter. 
Their rulers were not less disconsolate. They saw their front in 
the West cracking, and the whole fabric of their power in the 
East beginning to crumble about their ears. They knew the terms 
upon which alone the Allies would think of peace, and these terms 
meant the downfall of all they had builded, and the reversal of 
Germany's policy since the days of "Bismarck. They could not 
bring themselves as yet to bow to them, and they hoped against 
hope for some diversion, some gift from the gods at the eleventh 
hour. On 24th September both the Imperial Chancellor and the 
Vice-Chancellor spoke in the Reichstag, clinging to their old dogmas, 
but striving so to phrase them that, while maintaining their sub- 
stance, they might fall more soothingly on Allied ears. It was 
certain that Germany would not admit defeat till her armies were 
decisively beaten in the field. 

That decision was very near. Two days later Foch launched 
his final battle. We turn to that epic campaign of August and 
September which had prepared the stage for this, the last act of 
the play. 



BOOK IV 



THE SURRENDER 



CHAPTER XCVII 

THE TURNING OF THE TIDE 

July 18-September 24, 191 8 

Foch's Strategy of the Last Battles — The Germans Driven behind the Vesle — 
Haig strikes on 8th August — The Battle of Amiens — Byng's Attack of 
2 1 St August — Battles of Albert and Bapaume — The Last Battle of Arras 
— The Capture of P^ronne — Capture of Drocourt-Qu^ant Switch — Hin- 
denburg Line reached — Pershing clears the St. Mihiel Salient — The Eve 
of the Final Effort. 

The final battle had been joined, but it must develop slowly. 
Let us attempt to discover what was in Foch's mind. 

The Second Battle of the Marne restored to the Allies the initia- 
tive. That is to say, they had now power to impose their will 
upon the enemy to the extent of deciding the form and the time 
of an action. The enemy might attack, but his attack would be 
the result of Allied compulsion, and therefore foreseen and pre- 
pared for, whereas the Allied offensives would come of their own 
free will. During most of the campaign in the West the Allies 
had kept the initiative, for they won it at the First Battle of the 
Marne, and did not lose it till Ludendorff's advance of March 21, 
1918. But the initiative of itself could not give victory, or Ger- 
many would have been victor after the latter date. For that it 
must be combined with a final superiority in effective strength ; 
that is, one side must have increased and be able to go on increas- 
ing, while the other must have passed the summit of its power 
and be on the decline. To this position the Allies had never as 
yet attained. They had come very near to it before the close of 
the First Battle of the Somme, and they would have achieved it 
during 191 7 had the Russian front held. But the defection of the 
East turned the tables on them, and gave Germany the initiative, 
and a temporary, though not a;^wa/, superiority ineffective strength. 
For three months the Allies stood precariously on the defensive, 
while that temporary supremacy slowly vanished. Then came the 
hour when the balance inclined towards them, and the mistakes of 

309 



310 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [July 

his opponents offered Foch the chance of a coup which gave him 
back the initiative. He had now in addition a final superiority 
in men and material, and had, moreover — what is not necessarily 
the same thing — this superiority translated into a greater number 
of reserve divisions. He had, therefore, the means to his hand of 
using to the full the advantage of the initiative, and nothing but 
an incredible blunder could have lost him this crowning asset. 

He made no blunder, for the wisdom which had patiently stood 
the shock for nearly four months and bided its time was not likely 
to fumble when the chance for which it had striven appeared at 
last. To the bludgeon of Ludendorff he had opposed the lithe 
blade of the swordsman. He had avoided his enemy's shattering 
blows ; he had pinked him, and had drawn much blood ; he had 
baffled and confused and wearied him till the brute force of his 
antagonist was less than his own trained and elastic strength. But 
the time for the coup de grace was not yet. In 1813 the Prussian 
Staff, studying the methods of Napoleon, laid down as the first 
principle of that great master of war the rule : "Economize forces, 
while keeping the battle nourished, right up to the moment when 
the transition is made from the preparation to the main attack." 
Germany had forgotten this maxim, but Foch had remembered it, 
and had made it the text of a homily in his Les Principes de la 
Guerre. It was now, as ever, the basis of his policy. 

But this self-discipline and discretion would have been of no 
value unless the plan for the coup de grdce had been found. Such 
a plan Foch had prepared, and it is on this plan that his claim to 
pre-eminence as a leader depends. Since he became Allied Com- 
mander-in-Chief he had made many mistakes ; by his slowness 
in reinforcing Haig he had invited a disaster on the Lys ; he 
had been completely surprised by the German attack on the Aisne 
heights ; in the disposition of his forces, as in the way he mixed 
up the British and the French armies, he had often been clumsy. 
But in the major business of war he did not err. He had that first 
quality of the superior mind, the power to select amid a welter 
of confused alternatives, the capacity to make a simple syllogism, 
which, once it is made, seems easy and inevitable, but which, 
before it is made, is in the power only of the greatest. No epoch- 
making step in history, whether in war or in statecraft, seems 
otherwise than inevitable in the retrospect. It is like great poetry, 
compounded into something immortal out of the simplest ingre- 
dients by the alchemy of genius. 

All former Allied offensives had, after a shorter or longer time, 



I9I8] THE MIND OF FOCH 311 

come to a halt for the same reason — wearied troops were met by 
fresh enemy reserves. The battle became, as it were, stereotyped ; 
the enemy was able to perfect his defence ; and the action ended 
in stalemate. Even after further success was impossible, there was 
a tendency in the attacker to continue hammering at an unbreak- 
able front, because he had set the stage for action in that one area 
and could not easily shift his batteries and communications else- 
where. In a word, the offensive lacked mobility, and was apt to 
end in a needless waste of men. This trait was as notable in the 
Allied attacks on the Somme, at Arras, and at Passchendaele, as 
in the futile German attempts at Verdun. The first problem was, 
therefore, to get a superior mobility in the attacks, and to bring in 
the element of surprise. This the Germans achieved at St. Quentin 
by the use of storm battalions and the method of 'infiltration' ; 
but they did not grasp the logical consequences of their new system 
of war. They allowed an action which was based essentially on 
surprise to drift into a stationary battle. They permitted their 
army to become accroche, alike on the Somme, on the Lys, and 
on the Marne ; and therefore, sooner or later, they were faced by 
Allied reserves and brought to a standstill. Their method could 
only have succeeded had there been no such reserves — a point on 
which Ludendorff was in singular error. 

Foch drew the logical deduction from the tactics of surprise. 
He resolved to make the battle highly mobile. After striking a 
blow he would stay his hand as soon as serious resistance developed, 
and attack instantly In another place. The enemy would be sub- 
jected to a constant series of surprises ; before his reserves could 
be got up he would have lost heavily In ground and men, his 
mass of manoeuvre would be needed to fill up the gaps in his front, 
and by swift stages that mass of manoeuvre would diminish. But 
for this result he needed a new weapon, and Halg provided It. 
Cambral had shown the way, and on 4th July a small action was 
fought, which was to the last phase of the war what Neuve Chapelle 
had been to the first, a fount of new tactics. Halg, with the free- 
ing of Amiens in view, had first to clear the Villers-Bretonneux 
plateau and take the village of Hamel. The task was entrusted to 
the Australian Corps in Rawlinson's Fourth Army, and they were 
given sixty tanks to help them. The affair was, as Sir John 
Moncish, the Australian commander, described it, the "perfection of 
team-work" ; the tanks overcame the German machine guns, and 
the Australian and part of an American division accounted for the 
German infantry. It was clear after Hamel that the tank was the 



312 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [July 

additional weapon required. There was now no need of a pro- 
longed artillery bombardment ; the tank was sufficient to sweep 
a path for the Infantry. There was less need also for elaborate 
preparations before the battle, and consequently an attack could be 
rapidly designed for any area where the prospects seemed favour- 
able. Foch was ready to break down the system of trench warfare 
and restore the open battle, because he had found a method to 
obviate the clumsiness of the modern military machine. His trust 
lay in a triple combination of which each part hinged upon the 
other — the weapon of the tank, the tactics of surprise, and the 
strategy of complete mobility. 

But he was not yet ready for the grand climax, the decisive 
blow. It was still his business to wear down the enemy continuously 
and methodically by attacks on limited fronts, aiming at strictly 
limited objectives. The tactical freedom which was now his en- 
abled him to ring the changes over the whole battle-ground. He 
would use his reserves discreetly and economically to "nourish the 
battle" and Inflict the maximum damage on his opponents. But 
he would not press In any section for an ambitious advance, or 
endeavour to force a decision. The actipn must develop organi- 
cally like a process of nature. From 2ist March to i8th July he 
had stood patiently on the defensive ; from July i8th to 8th August 
he had to win back the Initiative, free his main communications, 
and dislocate Ludendorff's plans. From 8th August to 26th Sep- 
tember It was his task to crumble the enemy's front, destroy the 
last remnants of his reserves, force him beyond all his prepared 
defences, and make ready for the final battle which should give 
victory. 



At first It would appear that Boehn did not realize the meaning 
of Mangln's success. He had eight divisions beyond the Marne, 
and the loss of the main highway from Soissons — for on the 19th 
the 2nd American Division had cut It — meant that they depended 
for supply upon the parish roads threading the wooded hills of 
the Tardenois. Every hour, too, that his men remained south 
of the river Increased the peril of the thirty divisions Inside the 
salient. But for the moment confusion seems to have reigned 
at German Headquarters, and nothing was done to protect the 
apex on Thursday, nor yet on Friday, the 19th, when Mangin and 
Degoutte were establishing their ground and beating off counter- 



I9i8] FRENCH AND AMERICAN ADVANCE 313 

attacks. For thirty-six hours Boehn hesitated ; then on the after- 
noon of the Friday he gave orders for the retreat. It began at 
9 p.m. that evening. The plan was to crowd up all available re- 
serves against Mangin, who was regarded as the chief danger. Two 
divisions were borrowed at once from Prince Rupprecht, and be- 
fore the end of the month the enemy's strength against the French 
Tenth Army had risen to twenty-five divisions. Mangin, accord- 
ing to Foch's orders, held his hand. He had done all he had set 
out to do, and had cut the Soissons road; on the 21st the ist 
American Division broadened the breach by taking Berzy-le-Sec ; 
and it was now for Degoutte and de Mitry and Berthelot to take 
up the running. On Saturday, the 20th, the eight German divi- 
sions staggered back across the river under the concentrated fire 
of the French batteries from the high ground on their flanks. De- 
goutte advanced to link up with Mangin, whose right had now 
reached the villages of Parcy-Tigny and Villemofttoire ; de Mitry 
and Berthelot between them that evening had the whole southern 
bank of the Marne, and their outposts had begun to cross the 
river, while Berthelot had also made an advance between the 
Marne and Rheims. On the 19th the last-mentioned had received 
part of the British 22nd Corps, under Sir Alexander Godley, which 
took the place of the Italian 2nd Corps, and its 51st and 62nd 
Divisions made progress in the region of Marfaux and the Bois de 
Courton, thereby endangering the highroad along the Ardre which 
joined Fismes on the Vesle with Chatillon on the Marne. 

On Sunday, the 21st, the Sixth and Fifth Armies struck in ear- 
nest. Degoutte's object was to outflank Boehn on the north bank 
of the Marne and drive him from the river. His French and Amer- 
ican troops * in a magnificent movement swept eastward to a front 
from Breny, on the Ourcq, to the west of Rocourt and Epieds ; 
while de Mitry forced the river passage between Gland and Char- 
t^ves. Chateau-Thierry was no longer tenable, and that evening 
the Americans of the 3rd Division were in its streets. The Allies 
were now close on the vital road junction of Oulchy-le-Ch^teau. 
Boehn had substantially narrowed his salient, and left only some 
six miles of river front as the mouth of the pocket. As his flank 
was turned on the west, it seemed reasonable to assume that he 
was in process of evacuating the whole area, and falling back on 
the Ourcq and the Vesle. 

* The Americans, in these actions on the Marne, were the ist Corps, under 
Major-General Liggett, and the 3rd Corps, under Major-General BuUard. and 
included the 3rd, 26th, and 28th Divisions, with the 4th and 32nd in support. 



314 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [July 

On the contrary, he attempted a stand. On Monday, the 22nd, 
de Mitry crossed the river between Passy and Dormans, and at 
Port-a-Binson,' south of Chatillon, occupying in the former area all 
the ground in the loop of the stream. A slight advance was also 
made north of the Ourcq, and Berthelot took the village of Bouilly 
at the northern end of the Montagne de Rheims. But on the 
23rd there was a sudden stiffening of resistance in the south of 
the salient. Degoutte alone had some twenty German divisions 
against him, four of them from the fresh reserves of Prince Rup- 
precht. Boehn held out stoutly on his few miles of river front, 
the very place where his supply problem was at its worst. This 
defence, which involved the crowding of large reinforcements into 
a narrow area, was not necessary for a safe withdrawal ; but Luden- 
dorff was anxious to delay the retirement till he could get the 
hinterland cleared of stores. He had decided on a drastic policy. 
The projected Flanders offensive had been countermanded, and he 
had arranged for a falling back of Boehn's army to the Ville-en- 
Tardenois-Fere-en-Tardenois line on the night of the 26th, and 
behind theVesleearly in August. Only thus could he attain security. 

On the 23rd, under the pressure of the counter-attack, the 
French were driven out of Vincelles ; but de Mitry managed to 
press northwards at Jaulgonne, and between Passy and Dormans. 
That day Degoutte's left wing was in the outskirts of Oulchy, 
while his left centre south of the Ourcq entered Rocourt. Berthe- 
lot was heavily engaged, the British 51st and 62nd Divisions taking 
Marfaux, and Mangin began his attack against the slopes of Bu- 
zancy , east of the Soissons-Chateau-Thierry road, where two British 
divisions, the 34th and the Scottish 15th, were in action. On the 
23rd, too, with the object of preventing Prince Rupprecht from 
sending further troops to the aid of the Crown Prince, the French 
First Army, under Debeney, attacked north of Montdidier, with 
the assistance of British tanks. It advanced 3,000 yards on a 
front of 7,000, capturing the villages of Mailly-Raineval, Sauvillers, 
and Aubvillers, and won the heights overlooking the Avre valley. 
By the evening of that day the Soissons-Chateau-Thierry road, 
save for the small section on the plateau south of Soissons, was 
wholly in Allied hands ; three more miles had been gained up the 
Ourcq valley ; the Americans with Degoutte were pressing along 
the Chateau-Thierry-Fere road ; Boehn's front on the Marne was 
crumbling ; and Berthelot was within two miles of the Fismes- 
Chatillon road. Twenty-five thousand prisoners and more than 
400 guns had fallen to Foch. 



I9i8] RETREAT FROM THE MARNE 315 

The main threat now was against Fere-en-Tardenois, to which 
Oulchy was an advance guard. If Fere were to fall, the southern 
end of the salient would be gone prematurely, and Boehn accord- 
ingly put his chief weight into the defence of that section. The 
next move was with Degoutte, though Berthelot remained hard at 
work, and on the 24th the British 22nd Corps captured Vrigny, 
with 1 ,000 prisoners. The Sixth Army that day advanced in face 
of fierce opposition between the Ourcq and the Marne, till by the 
evening Degoutte's alignment, instead of being north and south, 
was now almost east and west. Next day , Thursday , 25th, Oulchy- 
le-Ch§.teau fell, and the centre advanced to within three miles of 
F^re-en-Tardenois. Late the following evening Boehn began the 
comprehensive retirement which had been ordered between the 
Ourcq and the Ardre. He had suffered the penalty of his tardi- 
ness. His Marne front was in desperate case, for the roads from 
Fere in the west and from Fismes in the east were alike threat- 
ened. There was no time to be lost if he wished to straighten his 
line. Nor had Degoutte less need for haste, for he must carry 
F^re-en-Tardenois before the enemy could establish his front from 
the upper Ourcq to the upper Vesle. Even if Boehn secured such 
a front, it would be little better than his front on the Marne, for 
Mangin lay waiting with an army rested and refitted to strike at 
its flank as Degoutte had struck at Chateau-Thierry. Such is the 
difficulty of a piecemeal withdrawal from a salient in face of a 
strong and watchful enemy ; a fresh position finds itself already 
turned. With the facts of each new situation as it revealed itself 
Foch played as a master plays on an instrument of music. 

Nevertheless, the German retreat from the Marne, by encum- 
bered roads through a broken country, was a fine performance. 
Costly in life, hugely costly In materiel, it was much to Boehn's 
credit that he achieved it at all. On the 27th Degoutte and de 
Mitry pressed hard in pursuit, and Berthelot advanced to conform. 
East of Rhelms Gouraud's Fourth Army made progress in the 
MoronvIUers region south of Mont San Nom, and took nearly 2,000 
prisoners. The whole day was a good example of skilful pressure 
exercised upon an embarrassed and retreating enemy. By the 
evening Berthelot was on a line from south of Ville-en-TardenoIs 
to just south of St. Gemme. On his left de Mitry's line ran north- 
west through the forests of RIs and Fere. Degoutte was astride 
the Ourcq ; Mangin was slowly working up the slopes east of 
the Soissons-Chateau-Thierry road, but was in difficulties at the 
chateau and village of Buzancy, while the advance of his right 



3i6 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [July-Aug. 

wing north of Plessier Huleu was being strongly resisted in the 
wood of Plessier. 

Next day, the 28th, Degoutte swung his right wing across the 
Ourcq and entered F^re-en-Tardenois, while the American 3rd 
Division pushed out of the Forest of Ris and took Roncheres. 
Berthelot was less fortunate, and had a hard struggle between 
St. Gemme and Chambrecy, but a British division with him suc- 
ceeded in retaking the Montagne de Bligny. Signs were appear- 
ing of a more comprehensive German retreat, and the villages in 
rear of the enemy's line from Soissons to Bazoches were in flames. 
That day, too, Mangin had carried the strong point of Buzancy, 
where the 15th Scottish Division so distinguished themselves that 
by the orders of the French commander a memorial was erected 
on the battlefield to commemorate their valour.* For the moment 
it seemed as if the German retreat was to be turned into a rout. 

But the enemy was as yet far from beaten. On the morning 
of the 29th his whole front stiffened. Reinforcements had been 
huddled into his front lines, and all day vigorous counter-attacks 
took place in the battle area. At Sergy the 4th Guards Division 
attacked part of the American 42nd Division, which had recently 
come from Champagne, and was repulsed after some hours of 
desperate fighting. It was the same on the 30th, when, on the 
eastern side of the salient, Berthelot had to face a series of heavy 
counter-attacks in the neighbourhood of St. Euphralse. The enemy 
won back the station of F^re-en-TardenoIs, and the American 32nd 
Division (Major-General Haan) at Clerges and Meunl^re Wood 
found every yard disputed. On the last day of July they swept 
forward and captured Clerges and the slopes beyond, while the 
French on their right were at last able to debouch from Meu- 
ni^re Wood. 

Boehn had found a line which he believed he could hold, and it 
was now the business of 'Mangin to turn the flank of the defence as 
Degoutte had turned It on the Marne. We have seen that the 
ridge culminating in the heights of Grand Rozoy gave him an 
avenue into the heart of the German position. His right wing east 
of Plessier Huleu and the Soissons road was now ready for its final 
attack on the key-point, the hill called 205. Boehn lay along the 
edge of the plateau east of the lower Crise and its western tributary, 
and thence along the watershed between the Ourcq and the Vesle. 
As the Allies now stood, they had no direct observation over this 

* The monument was a rough stone pyramid, on one side of which was 
carved a thistle encircled with roses. 



I9i8] THE GERMANS BEHIND THE VESLE 317 

plateau and the roads from Braisne, Bazoches, and Fismes, which 
were the arteries of the German supply. But if they could carry 
Hill 205, they would enfilade the Crise valley, look over the five or 
six miles of downs to the Vesle, and even beyond to the roofs of 
Fismes. The hill was the key of the whole countryside, and its 
capture would force Boehn back upon the line of the Vesle heights. 
Mangin struck at dawn on Thursday, 1st August, with his whole 
army, but especially with his right wing; and by nine in the 
morning he had the crest of Hill 205. Then followed two hours 
of furious counter-attacks, which achieved nothing. Late in the 
afternoon a new division of shock troops, borrowed from Prince 
Rupprecht, advanced to an attack which dwindled away into 
isolated rushes. Boehn admitted defeat, for not only was his front 
turned between the Ourcq and the Vesle, but his hold on Soissons 
was fatally loosened. There was nothing for it but retirement, and 
the Americans on Degoutte's right, fighting north of Sergy, [found 
the enemy's resistance suddenly beginning to falter. On the 2nd 
the whole Allied line swept forward, and Mangin entered Soissons. 
Already, since 15th July, the Allies had taken some 40,000 prisoners. 
There could be no resting-place short of the Vesle. During the 
first days of August the whole countryside between Ourcq and 
Aisne was murky with the smoke of burning villages, while the 
four armies of France pressed in the contracting arc of the German 
front. On the 4th they had reached the line of the Aisne and the 
Vesle. Next day they forced the passage of the latter river at 
many places on both sides of Braisne, and crossed the Aisne just 
east of Soissons. That day American troops of the 32nd Division 
entered Fismes, and on the 6th ground was gained on the northern 
bank of the Vesle.* Then once again came a halt. Boehn had 
reached a line on which he could stand. It was not a position to 
be altogether desired. The Chemin des Dames and the heights 
of the Vesle did not form a continuous ridge, for there was the 
valley of the Aisne between ; and on the east the hills died away 
into levels, with Rheims as an Allied outpost to menace that 
flank. The Germans, however, mindful of the strength of the 
Aisne defences in 1914, turned to it as a natural refuge. But 
1914 was not 1918; then Germany had had a great superiority 
in guns, and something not far from an equality in men; now 

* On this day Foch was made a Marshal of France. "The dignity of 
Marshal," said the decree of the President, "will not be merely a recompense 
for past services ; it will consecrate for the future the authority of the great 
soldier who is called to lead the armies of the Entente to final victory." 



3i8 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Aug. 

superiority and equality had gone beyond recall. The Crown 
Prince had thrown in seventy-four divisions since 15th July, and 
had wholly used up his reserves, besides drawing largely from the 
neighbouring group commanders. Ludendorff at the best had no 
more than twenty -six reserve divisions at his disposal, and Foch 
had now a greater mass of manoeuvre than his antagonist. More- 
over, the disastrous Second Battle of the Marne had played havoc 
with the German first-line troops. Every division was under 
strength, and some, even of the picked units, were short by more 
than 30 per cent. Ten divisions were broken up, and the estab- 
lishment of battalions was reduced from 850 to 750, or less. In- 
deed, so bad was the case that Ludendorff v»^as compelled to appeal 
to Austria for men, and now for the first time an Austrian division 
was identified on the front in France. 

The dreams of an attack on Amiens and an advance in Flanders 
were gone for ever ; the initiative had definitely passed to the 
Allies, and Ludendorff 's one aim was to find security for the com- 
ing winter. He must build up as soon as possible a new reserve, 
and to do this he must shorten his front at certain useless salients, 
such as those on the Lys and at Montdidier, He aimed at a winter 
front running along the Ypres and Wytschaete heights, continuing 
on the low ridges between the Lys and La Bassee, and from Arras 
to the Gise holding the crest of the Bapaume and Lassigny uplands. 
He had now stabilized the position on the Aisne, and he hoped 
that the French would break their teeth on his new front, and that 
the battle would decline into one of those fruitless struggles for a 
few miles of trench in which the old actions had been wont to die 
away. 

He hoped in vain. Foch had no mind to waste one hour in 
operations which were not vital. At a conference held on 23rd 
July he had expounded his plan to his colleagues. He recounted 
what he regarded as the necessary preliminaries to the final battle 
■ — the freeing of the Paris-Nancy line in the Marne area ; the free- 
ing of the Paris-Amiens line ; the reduction of the St. Mihiel 
salient ; the liberation of the northern coal mines. The first had 
now been achieved, and the time was ripe for the second. He had 
won in the Marne salient by carrying an attack no further than the 
limit fixed by the advantage of surprise, and then striking swiftly 
elsewhere. It was his supreme merit that he saw the battle as a 
whole, and he was now preparing his deadly arpeggio on a far 
broader front. On Thursday, 8th August, Sir Douglas Haig, south 
of the Somme, flung his Fourth Army against Prince Rupprecht. 



1918] THE BRITISH ADVANCE BEGINS 319 

II 

During July the British and French armies north of the Oise 
had been slowly improving their position, and preparing a starting- 
place for attack. The Hamel action we have noted, but there 
were others. For example, on the 28th of June Plumer, with the 5th 
and 31st Divisions, advanced to the eastern edge of the Forest of 
Nieppe and at Merris ; on the night of 30th June Byng took ground 
north-west of Albert ; on the nights of 5th and 7th July Rawlinson 
gained ground on both sides of the Somme, and secured the whole 
ridge which runs east of Hamel and the Bois de Vaire. On 12th 
July the French First Army advanced more than a mile between 
Castel and Mailly-Raineval, capturing the former village. On the 
19th the 9th Division retook the village of Meteren, while on the 
23rd, as we have already seen, the French advanced two miles 
north of Montdidier ; on the night of the 28th the Australians with 
Rawlinson went forward north of the Somme, and next day the 
village of Merris, south-west of Bailleul, was taken by the 1st 
Australian Division with Plumer. Early in August Ludendorf! 
began his first withdrawal. On the 2nd Marwitz fell back across 
the Ancre between Dernancourt and Hamel, and there was a 
slight retirement north of the La Bassee Canal. Between the 
5th and the 9th, east of Robecq, the British line was advanced 
more than a mile on a front of six. Ludendorff's intention was 
clear, and the moment had come for Haig to speed and confuse his 
departure. 

The British Commander-in-Chief had two alternatives — to 
advance on the Lys or on the Somme, and he decided that the latter 
should take precedence. The area chosen for the new attack 
was the front of fourteen miles astride the Avre, the Luce, and the 
Somme from just south of the Amiens-Roye road to Morlancourt. 
The British forces for the past three months, save for the divisions 
engaged on the Aisne and the Marne, had had a time of comparative 
quiet, and the arrival of the Americans had given them oppor- 
tunities of training new drafts out of the line. In this area were 
disposed the British Fourth Army under Rawlinson, and the left 
wing of the French First Army under Debeney — both forces tem- 
porarily under the British Commander-in-Chief. Infinite pains 
had been taken to make the surprise complete. By an elaborate 
piece of camouflage the enemy was induced to believe that an 
attack in Flanders was imminent. The Canadians, who, along 



320 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Aug. 

with the Australians, were cast for the principal part in the British 
attack, had been secretly brought down from the north a few 
days earlier, and only went into line just before the battle. The 
German front — the left of Marwitz's II. Army and the right of 
Hutier's XVIII. Army — was at the moment held by seven divi- 
sions, and there was no great depth of reserves behind. For the 
attack Haig had accumulated not less then 400 tanks, mostly of 
the "whippet" type. It was an occasion for the use of Foch's 
tactics in their purest form. There was to be no artillery bom- 
bardment except just at the moment of advance ; the ground had 
been perfectly reconnoitred from the air ; the objectives were 
ambitious but strictly defined ; and the troops to be used were 
among the corps d' elite of assault in the British army. Rawlinson 
had seven divisions in line of battle. On the right the Canadian 
Corps had the 3rd, 1st, and 2nd Canadian Divisions in line, with 
the 4th in support. In the centre the Australian Corps had the 2nd 
and 3rd Australian Divisions in line, with the 5th and 4th in support. 
The left wing, north of the Somme, was held by the 3rd Corps, with 
the 58th and i8th Divisions in line, and the 12th in support. The 
three divisions of the Cavalry Corps under Kavanagh were waiting 
east of Amiens, and a special force of motor machine-gun brigades 
and Canadian cyclists had orders to operate along the Amiens-Roye 
road. 

Strategically the area was of high importance. Haig's ulti- 
mate purpose was that of Foch, which has been already described ; 
his immediate aim was to free his communications, as the French 
had freed theirs on the Marne. To this end the enemy must be 
driven out of range of Amiens and the Paris railway, Mont- 
didier must be retaken, and the enemy's own communications 
must be broken by the domination of the important road and rail- 
centre of Chaulnes. The battle-ground was of the familiar type 
of the Santerre plateau. North of the Somme the downs ran 
southward into an awkward spur in the bend of the river at Chi- 
pilly. In the south, in the valley of the Avre, long bare slopes 
gave a similar advantage to the German defence. The centre 
between the Somme and the Avre was open upland, sprinkled with 
coppices, which presented no natural obstacle. From Amiens ran 
straight as an arrow the two great Roman highways to St. Quentin 
and to Roye, and there were dozens of good parish roads to link 
them up. The whole countryside was an ideal area for tanks, 
being dry and unenclosed, while the Roman highways provided 
avenues to direct the assault. An immediate success in the centre 



I9i8] THE BATTLE OF 8TH AUGUST 321 

was a practical certainty, but it looked as if the two flanks might 
have severe fighting. 

In the first week of August much rain fell, and on the night of 
the 7th a heavy mist soaked out of the ground. When day dawned 
on Thursday, the 8th, it was such another morning as 21st March. 
Just before daybreak an intense bombardment was opened between 
the Ancre and the Avre. Four minutes later it stopped, and the 
tanks and infantry moved forward. Rawlinson advanced at 4.20, 
Debeney some twenty minutes later. 

In the centre success was immediate and continuous. The 
Canadians and Australians, pressing along the two Roman roads, 
marched steadily towards their final objectives. Long before 
noon they had taken Demuin and Marcelcave, and were beyond 
the main Albert-Montdidier highway. Hutier was completely 
surprised. At one point the British tanks took captive a German 
regimental mess while it was breakfasting; at another the 
whole staff of a division was seized ; in some villages the Germans 
were taken in their billets before they knew what had happened, 
and parties of the enemy were made prisoner when working in the 
harvest fields. The Canadian cavalry passed through the infantry 
and captured a train on the line near Chaulnes. Indeed that day 
the whole British cavalry performed miracles, advancing twenty- 
three miles from their points of concentration. Only on the 
flanks was there any hindrance. North of the Somme the 3rd 
Corps carried the woods of Gressaire and Chipilly in the river bend ; 
but they failed to take Morlancourt, and before nightfall a vigorous 
German counter-attack recovered Chipilly. So, too, Debeney on 
his three miles of front had difficulties at Morisel, in the Avre valley. 
This fell about 8 a.m., and there began a long fight for Moreuil 
and for the woods on the edge of the crest. When these were 
taken the enemy resistance broke, and Debeney was able to bring 
up his wing level with the British centre. That night the new line 
ran, from left to right, west of Morlancourt, along the slopes just 
west of Chipilly, just west of Framerville, and thence through 
Caix, Beaucourt, and Rozainvillers-Plessier to Pierrepont. The 
whole of the Amiens outer defence line had been gained except at 
Le Quesnel, and that fell during the night. The Allied front was 
within four miles of Chaulnes, and the salient of Montdidier had 
become dangerously sharpened. 

This conspicuous success — in Ludendorff's phrase "the black 
day of the German army in the history of the war" — was due to 
the brilliant tactical surprise and the high efficiency of the new 



322 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Aug. 

tanks.* But it was also due in some degree to a clearly-marked 
deterioration in the quality of the German infantry on that part 
of the front. The machine-gun detachments especially did not 
display their old tenacity. The Allied casualties were extraor- 
dinarily small, one Canadian division, which was in the heart 
of the battle, losing only lOO men. Debeney had mastered the 
difficulties of the Avre valley, but the British left north of the 
Somme was still awkwardly placed owing to the loss of Chipilly. 
On the morning of Friday, 9th, however, the 3rd Corps, with the 
assistance of a regiment of the American 33rd Division (Major- 
General Higginson), made a fresh attack, captured Morlancourt, 
on the Ancre, and the high ground beyond it, took Chipilly village, 
and cleared the whole of the Chipilly bend. In the centre the 
Allied front was advanced — largely by the brilliant work of the 
cavalry — to the outskirts of Mericourt and Proyart, and thence 
lay by Meharicourt, Rouvroy, Arvillers, and Contoire to Pierrepont 
on the Avre. This front seriously outflanked Montdidier on the 
north, but there was more to follow. 

For on the loth Humbert's French Third Army struck in on 
the south flank of the salient between Montdidier and the Matz. 
Humbert had received no reinforcements, and had only the troops 
which at the moment were holding the line ; but his attack was the 
extra blow needed to complete the work of Rawlinson and Debeney 
on the north. He took the villages of Le Tronquoy and Le Fretoy, 
and rang the knell of the enemy in Montdidier. The Germans did 
not appear to realize their danger, for Debeney and Humbert 
pushed on through the darkness of the night, and by the morning 
reached FaveroUes and cut the road to Roye, by which alone 
retreat was possible. During Saturday, the loth, the Montdidier 
garrison surrendered, and large quantities of material fell into 
Allied hands. All day the British and the French pressed forward, 
;and by nightfall were six miles east of the town. Rawlinson was 
dose on Lihons, Debeney was in La Boissiere, and Humbert held 
F6camps and Conchy. 

That day's work had important consequences. It put Chaulnes 
at the mercy of the Allies, for the place was now under direct 
observation not 3,000 yards away. Roye itself was under their 
guns, though at long range. The great Amiens-Paris railway was 

* One whippet, "Musical Box" by name, pushed through to more than six 
miles behind the German front, and did immense damage. Its surprising ad- 
ventures may be read of in Sir A. Montgomery's Story of the Fourth Army, 
Appendix K, and Major Williams-Ellis's The Tank Corps, p. 201, etc. 



I9i8] AMIENS FREED 323 

completely freed for traffic, as was also the other line which ran up 
the Avre valley to Montdidier. Prince Rupprecht's reserves had 
been drawn into the battle, and the original seven German divi- 
sions on the front had now grown to sixteen. Hutier inside the 
salient was severely straitened in his communications, and had 
now no line of lateral supply not directly threatened. Foch had 
repeated his tactical performance of i8th July on the Marne. 
He had freed his own communications and cut the enemy's, and 
the heights of Lassigny, towards which Humbert was striving, 
exactly paralleled that Hill 205 above Rozoy, the taking of which 
by Mangin had driven Boehn back to the Vesle. 

During the night of the loth Rawlinson advanced astride the 
Somme and carried the high ground north of the river between 
Etinehem and Dernancourt, thus widening the battle front. On 
Sunday, the iith, Hutier flung in fresh divisions to check the 
British advance. He retook the hill west of Lihons, but was 
driven off it, though he still held part of the town. He struck 
also against Humbert, and checked the speed of his progress. 
Next day, the 12th, Rawlinson advanced south of the Somme, 
taking Proyart and clearing Lihons ; and Debeney had some small 
gains south-west of Roye. The following day Humbert made 
progress east of the Matz, and took the isolated western outlier 
of the Lassigny range and the village of Gury. On the 14th he was 
in Belval, north of the heights, and his right wing carried Ribecourt, 
on the Oise. On the 15th the whole of the Lassigny massif was 
in his hands, and he had direct observation over the plain to the 
north, and the communications of all the enemy's southern front 
in the salient. 

The first phase of the Allies' offensive, which may be called the 
Battle of Amiens, had now reached its close, for they were in the 
old battle area, whose tangled wilderness gave unrivalled oppor- 
tunities for defence, and the enemy had been heavily reinforced. 
He had a moment of respite ; but it had been won at the expense 
of his waning reserves. Since 8th August he had employed thirty- 
five divisions. He had lost the use of Chaulnes, and of the lateral 
railway from Peronne to Roye, and the fall of the Lassigny range 
made a further retreat inevitable. In all the west Ludendorff 
had now only sixteen fresh divisions in reserve, of which eleven 
belonged to Prince Rupprecht's group. His chance of a counter- 
stroke had gone for ever, and the most he could hope for was to 
hold the line of upland between Arras and the Oise till he could 
make an orderly retreat to the Siegfried Line for winter quarters. 



324 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Aug. 

For that purpose he created a new army group under Boehn, 
comprising the II., XVIII., and IX. Armies, which took position 
between Prince Rupprecht and the Imperial Crown Prince, from 
Albert to Soissons. At the same time he was busy shortening his 
front on the Lys and the Ancre, and by the 15th we were in Locon 
and Calonne, in the first area, and had regained Beaumont Hamel, 
Serre, Puiseux, and Bucquoy, in the second. 

The mental condition of the enemy has been described by Sir 
Douglas Haig: "Buoyed up by the hope of immediate and de- 
cisive victory, to be followed by an early and favourable peace, 
constantly assured that the Allied reserves were exhausted, the 
German soldiery suddenly found themselves attacked on two 
fronts and thrown back with heavy losses from large and important 
portions of their earlier gains. The reaction was inevitable and 
of a deep and lasting character." The effect upon their leaders 
was still graver. Ludendorff tendered his resignation, which was 
not accepted. At conferences at Spa on the 13th and 14th August 
with the Emperor and the Imperial Chancellor he urged that 
peace should be sought at once on the best terms obtainable ; but 
the civilian statesmen did not dare as yet to undeceive their people. 
Meantime his one hope was a slow and stubborn retreat to the 
Siegfried system. Between the 8th and 15th the Allies had taken 
over 30,000 prisoners, of whom 22,000 had fallen to Rawlinson's 
army. With thirteen divisions of infantry and three of cavalry, 
the British Fourth Army had engaged and defeated twenty German 
divisions. On the 15th mass was said in Amiens Cathedral in 
thanksgiving for the final deliverance of that city. 

Foch had no intention of affording Ludendorff a leisurely 
retreat. It was his business to hustle him as soon as possible 
from what he had chosen as his intermediate line — the Bapaume 
ridge and the Somme south of Peronne. The fighting of the 15th 
and 1 6th convinced him that Debeney and Humbert had for the 
moment reached the limits of fruitful advance. Roye was still 
in German hands, though Debeney's position on Caesar's Camp 
prevented any use of the place by the enemy. It was time for a 
new blow in a new quarter. On the 17th Mangin, with the French 
Tenth Army, struck between the Oise and the Aisne against the 
awkwardly placed right wing of Carlowitz's IX. Army. 

It was a strictly limited operation on a short section of ten 
miles, and it began by small actions. Mangin, on the first day, 
advanced for about a mile, took 1,700 prisoners, and occupied the 
plateau west of Nampcel. It was an adroit performance, for 



I9i8] BYNG ATTACKS 325 

Boehn, much harassed by requests for reinforcements everywhere, 
disregarded the business as only a local attack. He withdrew 
his troops there to the battle zone and waited. But next day 
Mangin pressed in on a broader front. His men were very weary, 
having been long in battle; but the indomitable spirit of their 
general lifted them forward, and he varied his hour of attack so 
cunningly that he wholly confused the enemy. On the 20th he 
struck harder on a front of sixteen miles, and approached the 
Ailette, taking 8,000 prisoners and 200 guns. He had established 
himself firmly on the western part of the Heights of the Aisne, 
and threatened alike the German front on that river and their line 
west of the Oise. Three divisions were spared by Boehn from his 
reser\^e, including the Bavarian Alpine Corps, but they were too 
late to save the critical ground. The result was that by the evening 
of the 20th the whole front was closely engaged on the hundred 
miles between the Avre and the Vesle, and Boehn and the Crown 
Prince had every man they could muster involved in its defence. 
It might well have seemed impossible to Ludendorff that the 
energy of the Allies could find a new battle-ground ; but he was 
still far from grasping the relentless assiduity of Foch's plan. 
On the night of the 20th, Mangin, having done his work, held his 
hand. On the morning of Wednesday, the 21st, Byng struck 
with the British Third Army. 

HI 

At first Foch had wished to direct the next British blow on the 
Roye-Chaulnes position, but Haig had persuaded him that the 
better plan was to outflank it from the north. The British com- 
mander correctly divined Ludendorff 's mind, and, since the Siegfried 
Line was nearer his front between Arras and Albert than farther 
south, he resolved to upset the enemy calculation by striking 
direct at the sanctuary. He had other reasons for this course. 
Owing to Rawlinson's success south of the Somme the Germans 
held an awkward salient, which might be shattered by a blow on 
its northern side. He wished to turn from the north the line of 
the Somme south of Peronne as a step towards the main objective 
Cambrai-St. Quentin. Again, north of the Ancre the ground 
was less shell-pitted and more suitable for tanks. His aim was by 
a limited advance to recover the Arras-Albert railway, and two 
days later to deliver a general attack north of the Somme with the 
Third and Fourth Armies. 



326 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Aug. 

There has rarely been a more complete surprise. All week the 
enemy had been slowly falling back from his uglier salients north 
and south of the Lys and south of Arras. The British were again 
in Merville and Outtersteene, and the Germans on the Ancre were 
feeling their way towards a securer position for the defence of the 
Bapaume ridge. But Byng struck before they were ready, and 
his purpose was that of Haig on July i, 1916. He sought to turn 
the uplands by an advance north of the Ancre, an enterprise which 
had failed in the earlier battle, with the result that the British 
had been compelled to resort to a frontal attack. This time the 
plan was subtler, for the turning movement was not an isolated 
action but part of a vast co-ordinated engagement. The possession 
of the plateau around Bucquoy and Ablainzevelle gave us an advan- 
tage which we had not possessed in 1916. 

It was a thick morning when Byng advanced at 4.55 a.m. — 
the weather of 8th August and of 21st March. On a front of nine 
miles between Moyenneville and Beaucourt, the 42nd, New Zealand, 
and 37th Divisions of Harper's 4th Corps, and the 2nd and Guards 
Divisions of Haldane's 6th Corps, broke through the enemy front 
at the first rush. Then the 5th, 63rd, and 3rd Divisions passed 
through and completed the work, and the 21st Division cleared 
the Ancre bank. Beaucourt was taken, and Achiet-le-Petit, 
Courcelles, and Moyenneville — names known too well to us in the 
old Somme fighting — and by the evening we had advanced between 
two and three miles to where the enemy made a stand along the 
Albert-Arras railway. It was sufficient, for Haig did not need to 
hasten. He was still only "nourishing the battle." Next day, 
the 22nd, the left wing of Rawlinson's Fourth Army, the 47th, 
I2th, and i8th Divisions of the 3rd Corps, with the 3rd Australians 
and the 38th Division on either flank, came into action between 
Albert and the Somme, and had a like success. Albert was re- 
covered by the i8th Division, and the village of Meaulte, and our 
line was pushed two miles beyond Meaulte to the slopes looking 
towards Fricourt. Meantime Humbert had taken Lassigny town 
on the 2 1st, and Boehn was withdrawing to the south bank of the 
Oise everywhere between Guny and Pontoise. 

The ground was now prepared for the main operation — for that 
last of the many Somme actions, which may be called the Battle 
of Bapaume. The Germans were in retreat on a wide front, and it 
was our business to confuse and cripple their withdrawal. On 
the 23rd Byng and Rawlinson, on the thirty-three miles of line 
between Lihons and Mercatel, made steady progress. At 4.45 



I9i8] THE LAST BATTLE OF ARRAS 327 

a.m., south of the Somme, the 32nd and the ist AustraUan Divi- 
sions advanced two miles, taking Chuignolles and Chuignes, and 
over 2,000 prisoners. North of the river the i8th and 38th Divi- 
sions of the 3rd and 5th Corps pushed east and south of 
Albert, while the 4th and 6th Corps attacked the Miraumont- 
Boiry-Becquerelle line. Gomiecourt, Ervillers, and Boyelles were 
taken, and we won a footing on the Thiepval ridge. Byng was 
now astride the Arras-Bapaume road, and closing in on the latter 
place from the north. That night the Australians took Bray. 
On the 24th the whole Thiepval ridge was cleared by a brilliant 
concentric attack, in which the 38th Division greatly distinguished 
itself, and Byng was on the edge of Bapaume. By the 25th 
we had Mametz, Martinpuich, and Le Sars ; but there was a stiff 
knuckle of resistance round Bapaume itself. On the 26th Debeney 
took Fresnoy, and on the 27th he was at last in Roye, and Boehn 
was in full retreat between that town and the Oise. By the 28th 
the French First Army had pushed forward nine miles to the upper 
Somme and the Canal du Nord. 

Meantime, on the 26th, Haig had struck again, this time with 
Home's First Army astride the Scarpe. The last of the battles 
of Arras was beginning — a preparation for the next great stage of 
the British advance. At 3 a.m. Sir Arthur Currie, with the 51st 
Division, and the 2nd and 3rd Canadians, attacked on a five-mile 
front. Wancourt was taken, and the old storm centre of Monchy 
and Guemappe, and he finished by nightfall in the outskirts of 
Roeux, winning as much in a day as had been won in six weeks 
in that area during the 191 7 Battle of Arras. Next day the advance 
continued, and Roeux and Gavrelle fell. This was a grave matter 
for Ludendorff, for he saw both his line and his reserves shrink- 
ing with a perilous speed — in seven days the British alone had 
taken 26,000 prisoners. The Bapaume ridge, thanks to our bril- 
liant outflanking movements, was already all but lost, and Home, 
on the Scarpe, threatened to turn the Siegfried Line itself. In 
that region the British were already beyond the front they had 
held on 21st March. But he still clung to his hope of an inter- 
mediate stand, to enable him to withdraw in good order to the 
Siegfried system when the weather broke. His scheme was to 
take position on a front which was roughly that of the Ailette 
and the Oise, the upper Somme and the Tortille. 

On Thursday, 29th August, Boehn was retreating to this 
line. To hold it, he had to retain Peronne ; but he cannot have 
hoped that he could retain it long. He was fighting for time — 



328 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Aug.-Sept. 

time to get back to the Siegfried positions without too great a 
loss in men and guns. Once there, in that great fortified zone 
seven miles deep, he believed he could stand fast for the winter. 
But he was preparing for the worst, for he gave orders for the 
preparation of a new position farther east, the Hermann Line 
from the upper Scheldt by Solesmes and Le Cateau and Guise 
to the Hunding and Brunehilde positions in the south. That day 
Rawlinson had Combles and Morval, and Byng's New Zealanders 
at last entered Bapaume. Farther north Byng had already been 
twenty-four hours in Croisilles, and Home had taken Greenland 
Hill. South of the Somme we held the western bank opposite 
Brie and Peronne, and occupied Hem. Debeney was on the river 
line to our right, and Humbert was in Noyon. The fall of Bapaume 
was a grave matter for the enemy, for it lost him a large accumula- 
tion of stores and it opened up to Byng the road to Cambrai. 

On the 30th Home moved along the Arras-Cambrai road, and 
found the enemy resistance stiffening. Nevertheless, by the 
evening the Canadians were in the skirts of Ecoust-St. Mein and 
Haucourt, and the British on their left had taken Eterpigny. 
Home was now in close touch with the famous Drocourt-Queant 
Switch, which, it will be remembered, had been constructed to 
link up the Siegfried Line proper with the old German front south 
of Lens, after the Battle of Arras had destroyed the northern 
Siegfried pivot. Farther south we reached the edge of Bulle- 
court, and took Bancourt and Vaulx-Vraucourt. In the French 
area Debeney, Humbert, and Mangin all made ground. But the 
great blow was struck by the 2nd Australians, with Rawlinson. 
By a superb operation conducted in the darkness their 5th Brigade 
crossed the Somme on the night of the 30th, and captured the 
German trenches south-east of Clery. At five in the morning of the 
31st it rushed Mont St. Quentin, the key of Peronne — a position 
defended by picked German troops. This attack, made with little 
artillery support by a small force, was one of the most amazing 
achievements in the war. That day there were violent counter- 
attacks against all the new British line between the Scarpe and 
the Somme, but they were repelled with ease, and Marrieres Wood, 
north of Peronne, the scene of the famous stand of the South Africans 
in March, was taken. On 1st September the 14th Brigade of the 
5th Australian Division entered Peronne, while we gained a long 
string of villages to the north — Bouchavesnes, Rancourt, Sailly- 
Saillisel, and Bullecourt. Mangin that day pushed north of the 
Ailette to the west of Coucy-le-ChSteau, and Debeney advanced 



Mont St. Qiientin and Peronne 
From a painting by Francis E. Hodge 



I9i8] CANADIANS BREAK DROCOURT LINE 329 

east of Nesle. In Flanders we retook Bailleul station, crossed the 
Lawe River, and were about to recapture Kemmel Hill. Luden- 
dorff' s intermediate position had gone, and he was once more a 
wanderer.* 

He still struggled to find a resting-place short of the main 
Siegfried Line, but clearly there was no such position in the southern 
sector, once the upper Somme had been crossed. In the north, 
however, he had the line of the Canal du Nord, a water line 
which he hoped would be an obstacle too difficult for tanks to 
cross. His problem now was not to stand, but how to find the 
means of retiring. The ceaseless pressure of the Allies delayed his 
going, and unless he found some intermediate defence, he might 
never reach the Siegfried zone. He hoped, by means of the Canal 
du Nord, to check Byng, while to the north and south his men 
retired before Home and Rawlinson behind the Drocourt-Queant 
Switch and the main Siegfried front. 

But he had not reckoned with Haig. On Monday, 2nd Sep- 
tember, while Rawlinson was advancing swiftly east of Peronne, 
and Byng was beyond Croisilles and BuUecourt, the right wing 
of Home's First Army, Sir Arthur Currie's Canadian Corps, in- 
cluding the 4th British Division and the 1st and 4th Canadians, 
and the left wing of the Third Army, Sir Charles Fergusson's 
17th Corps, comprising the 52nd, 57th, and 63rd Divisions, attacked 
at 5 a.m. astride the Arras-Cambrai road against the Drocourt- 
Queant Switch. It was, as the Germans well knew, the key of 
their whole front, and they had no less than eleven divisions on 
the nine miles between the Sensee and the Queant. The attack 
went clean through all the lines of one of the strongest positions 
in the West, and took six miles of the Switch, the villages of Etaing, 
Dury (with the important hill of Dury), Villers-les-Cagnicourt, 
Cagnicourt, and Noreuil, and 8,000 prisoners. f 

The feat was beyond doubt one of the greatest in the cam- 
paign, and it made Ludendorff's plan for an immediate stand 
impossible. He had no time for counter-attacks, but hurried his 
troops in the south behind the Canal du Nord, and, in place of 
the old Switch, put his trust in the line of water and marsh in the 
Sensee valley east of Etaing which protected Douai, and which 

* In the actions which may be collectively called the Battle of Bapaume 
twenty-three divisions of the British Third and Fourth Armies defeated thirty- 
five German divisions, taking over 34,000 prisoners and 270 guns. 

t In the whole Battle of the Scarpe between 26th August and 3rd September 
the British took over 16,000 prisoners and some 200 guns. 



330 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Sept. 

was continued southward from Marquion by the Agache River 
and the Canal du Nord. By the evening of the 4th our troops 
were on the canal bank, and found the enemy entrenched on the 
east side everywhere from the Scarpe to the Tortille. 

Next day, south of Peronne, both Rawlinson and Debeney 
crossed the Somme. The former by the evening held the line 
Athies-Doingt-Bussu, and the latter the line Berlancourt-Guivry- 
Marest. Mangin was now well north of the Ailette, while his 
right wing was moving eastward along the Chemin des Dames, 
and the French Sixth and Fifth Armies had driven the Germans 
from the Vesle, and stood on the crest between that stream and the 
Aisne. In Flanders we had recovered Neuve Chapelle and Fau- 
quissart, and north of the Lys Plumer's front ran from Voormezeele 
by Wulverghem to Ploegsteert. Lens had been evacuated, but not 
yet entered by Home's troops. 

The German front now presented a curious spectacle. The 
flank of the Siegfried zone had been turned, but the attack was 
temporarily checked by a water line. Farther south the enemy 
attempted to hold the Canal du Nord to cover his retreat, but this 
front had also been turned on 4th September by the passage of the 
Tortille river and the canal north of Moislains by the British. 
South, again, Marwitz and Hutier were falling back at their best 
speed to the Siegfried zone with no chance of an intermediate 
stand. Meantime Humbert was working his way up the right 
bank of the Oise, and Mangin's pincers were feeling at the St. 
Gobain massif, which played to the south of the Siegfried zone 
the part which the Drocourt-Queant Switch had been meant to 
play in the north. Here, however, the French had a difficult 
problem, for the gap between the St. Gobain Forest and the Oise 
and the valley of the Ailette were alike too narrow for an easy 
advance. Farther east the enemy hold on the Aisne heights was 
endangered. The whole front, which Ludendorff had vainly hoped 
to establish for the winter in impenetrable defences, was now a 
thing of angles and patches, and parts of it as fluid as wax under 
flame. 

For a week the Allied armies were occupied only in pressing 
the German retreat. They struck no great blow, for their immediate 
task was to secure the kind of front from which they could launch 
that final battle for which Foch had been preparing since July. 
Douai was covered by the water line, Cambrai and St. Quentin 
by the Siegfried zone, and Laon by the difficulties of the St. Gobain 
massif. Foch had no intention of doing the obvious thing, and 



I9i8] GERMANS ON HINDENBURG LINE 331 

delivering a direct attack against sectors on which the enemy 
would be prepared to meet him. His tactical method was to secure 
surprise, and strategically his attacks were co-ordinated after the 
fashion of pincers. 

On the 6th Rawlinson advanced seven miles east of P6ronne, 
while Byng reached the western end of Havrincourt Wood. De- 
beney took Ham, and Humbert pushed two miles beyond Chauny 
and approached Tergnier. Mangin occupied the lower forest of 
Coucy, and Degoutte broadened his front towards the Aisne. On 
the 7th Byng took the greater part of Havrincourt Wood, and Raw- 
linson was in Beauvois and Roisel, while Humbert took Tergnier 
and crossed the St. Quentin Canal, and Mangin, on the Aisne 
plateau, pressed north of Vauxaillon. By the loth Rawlinson was 
for the most part in the old British reserve lines constructed prior 
to 2 1st March, Byng and Home were beyond our front of that 
date, while from La Fere to the Ailette Hutier was back in the 
position from which the enemy's offensive had begun. He had 
drawn in his front between the Sens6e and the Oise, and from the 
Scarpe to the Aisne was holding practically a straight line. The 
result of this was to shorten his front by seventy miles, as com- 
pared with the 14th of July, which meant a saving of over thirty 
divisions. Nevertheless, he was hard pressed for men. Since 
March he had lost more than one and a half millions, and as rein- 
forcements he had only the 1920 class, already partly drawn upon, 
100,000 men scraped up from the interior and the lines of com- 
munication, and the 70,000 wounded who returned every month 
from hospitals. These reserves were far too few, the more so as 
their moral was clearly declining, and Ludendorff laboured to 
strengthen every natural defence, such as his northern pillar on 
the Passchendaele and Wytschaete heights, and to increase by 
inundations the depth of the water line. He also pushed on his 
preparation of positions in the rear, the Hermann line and the 
Antwerp-Meuse line, and evacuated the civilian population from 
Douai, Cambrai, and St. Quentin. He had cause for his anxiety, 
for the whole complexion of the war had changed. Betvveen 
March and May 1917 the British had forced the Germans back 
to the Siegfried zone, taking in the process 21,000 prisoners and 
200 guns. In 1918, starting from a front many miles farther west, 
they had performed the same feat in one month, and had 70,000 
prisoners and 700 guns to their credit. 

North of Havrincourt the enemy was behind the Canal du 
Nord, and south of it the Siegfried Line ran along the La Vacquerie 



332 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Sept. 

and Bonavis ridges to the Scheldt Canal, and thence to St. Quentin. 
In front of that line he held strong forward positions about Havrin- 
court and Epehy, which must be taken before the main zone could 
be assaulted. Accordingly, on the morning of Thursday, I2th 
September, Byng struck with the 4th and 6th Corps between 
Trescault and Havrincourt. He took both villages, and cleared 
the ground for the coming battle. That same day, far to the south, 
Foch began a new action, the last of the preliminaries which he 
had set himself. 

IV 

His aim was to wipe out the St. Mihiel salient, and open the 
gate to the Woevre and the vital railway which fed the enemy 
on the Aisne and the Gise. The enemy position at St. Mihiel, 
like most salients, was the relic of an unsuccessful offensive. The 
great German plan in 1914 had included an enveloping movement 
by the Gap of Nancy and the Heights of the Meuse, as well as by 
the Sambre and the Gise. The movement failed, but it left in the 
third week of September 1914 a sharp salient running from Fresnes 
due south over the wooded hills to a bridgehead on the west bank 
of the river opposite St. Mihiel, and thence east to Pont-a-Mousson 
and the Moselle. This triangle was some fifteen miles long on Its 
northern side, and twenty-five on its southern. It was the sharpest 
on the whole front ; but owing to the curious blind nature of the 
country, and to the fact that within it there ran to the apex a 
sheltered avenue for communications, it had so far been retained 
by the enemy. It was vigorously assaulted by the French In the 
spring of 191 5, from both north and south, but it was never seri- 
ously threatened. For offensive purposes it was of value to the 
Germans, for it threatened at long range the main line from Bar- 
le-Duc to Nancy, and it entirely cut the railway running down the 
Meuse valley from Commercy to Verdun. The result was that 
the Verdun corner was always an isolated part of the French 
front, and it was largely for this reason that the Crown Prince 
launched his attack there in February 191 6. Defensively It was 
important as protecting Metz and the Briey mines. But there 
was no section of the front where a considerable advance by the 
Allies would have more profound strategical results. Because of 
the Ardennes, the main communications of the enemy with Ger- 
many were sharply divided into two. There was a northern system 
from Liege through the Belgian plain, which served everything 



I9i8] PERSHING AT ST. MIHIEL 333 

as far south as St. Quentin ; and there was a southern system 
through Treves and Luxembourg, and through Mayence and 
Metz, which suppHed the front from Laon to Lorraine. If the 
AUies advanced to the key junction of Longuyon the whole southern 
system would vanish ; if they cut the main lateral line anywhere 
it would be grievously put out of gear. The plain of the Woevre 
was a nerve centre of the German battle-line. 

On nth September the army group of Gallwitz had a detach- 
ment of six divisions under Fuchs on the forty miles between 
Fresnes and Pont-a-Mousson, but since the divisions were not at 
full strength the force was not more than 50,000 men. Two of 
these divisions were in the apex of the salient. As local reserves 
there were two further German divisions and one Austro-Hun- 
garian. Ludendorff's extreme shortage of men had decided him 
to evacuate the salient, and the withdrawal would have begun on 
the 1 2th. But he had delayed too long, for Foch was aware of 
his plan and struck while he was in the act of retirement. 

From the early days of August Pershing had been collecting 
his far-flung divisions, and by the end of that month the American 
First Army had been created under his own command. He had 
now at his disposal four corps staffs and twenty divisions fit for 
the line, besides the three engaged in the British area.* The time 
had come to create an American sector of the front held by Amer- 
ican forces. At the most these troops had had six months* experi- 
ence on the battle-ground, and, judging by the time which it took 
Britain and France to master the ritual of modern war, the experi- 
ment did not lack boldness. Yet it was right that it should be 
made, for America's war effort must culminate as soon as pos- 
sible in the appearance of her own armies under her own gen- 
erals. In this, the first major action of America in the field, the 
French Staff were called in to assist in the scheme, and various 
seasoned French units were added to the American troops. On 
the night of the nth the dispositions at St. Mihiel were these: 
At the southern side of the salient, on the extreme right, lay Gen- 
eral Liggett's 1st American Corps, with in line from right to left 
the 82nd, 90th, 5th, and 2nd Divisions, and the 78th in reserve. 
On the left lay the 4th American Corps, under General Dickman, 
with in line the 89th, 42nd, and 1st Divisions, and the 3rd in reserve. 
West from Richecourt, around the apex of the salient, was the 

* Three American corps had been so far engaged in the main battle — the 
1st (General Liggett) and the 3rd (General Bullard) on the Ourcq and Vesle, 
and the 2nd (General Read) on the Somme. 



334 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Sept. 

French 2nd Colonial Corps, under Blondlat. On the north-west 
side of the salient lay the 5th American Corps under General Cam- 
eron, with in line the 26th American, the 15th French, and the 
4th American Divisions. The whole forces were under the Amer- 
ican Commander-in-Chief. 

At one o'clock on the morning of the 12th the American artil- 
lery opened on the eleven-mile front from Fey-en-Haye to Xivray. 
At five o'clock the first wave of attack crossed the parapets, 
accompanied by flotillas of tanks. An immense number of Allied 
airplanes accompanied the advance, and not an enemy machine 
was seen in the sky. The main attack was from the south, and it 
moved fast through the narrow lanes and thick woods on the rim 
of the salient, while the northern attack south of Fresnes struggled 
southward to join hands. By 10 a.m. the Americans were in 
Thiaucourt, and had cut the railway within the salient, which 
meant that the German divisions at the apex were caught between 
two fires. Meantime the northern attack had taken Combres 
and reached Dommartin-la-Montagne, while American cavalry 
were scouring the by-paths of the forests. All day the battle lasted, 
and early on the morning of the 13th September the northern and 
southern forces met at Vigneulles,* and the salient had disappeared. 
For three days the battle continued, and at the close of it the 
Heights of the Meuse were entirely cleared of the enemy, and 
the Allied line ran from the Meurthe below Pont-a-Mousson, north 
of the Bois-le-Pretre, three miles to the east of Thiaucourt, two 
miles east of St. Benoit, two miles east of Fresnes, and thence 
along the eastern foot of the Meuse heights to the old Verdun front 
at Bezonvaux. Already the advance guard of the Americans 
were under the fire of the fortress guns of Metz. Sixteen thousand 
prisoners and over 400 guns had been taken, together with a mass 
of every kind of stores. The losses of the Allies were very small. 
Two American divisions had only 300 and 600 casualties apiece, 
while one division of French cavalry, which took 2,500 prisoners, 
had only four men killed. 

The destruction of the St. Mihiel wedge was an achievement 
of the utmost significance. It proved, if proof were needed, the 
quality of American troops organized in the largest units and acting 
under their own commanders. Strategically, it vastly assisted the 
Allied communications, and restored in that area the power of 
attack at any moment and in any direction. In truth, in that 

* The 26th Division from the north won this race, closely followed by the 
1st from the south. 



THE BRITISH ADVANCE ON THE HINDENBURG 
(SIEGFRIED; LINE. 




tj i-i ' ; a ; 



H1 H'' 



a^iFH; 



I9i8] THE EVE OF THE GREAT EFFORT 335 

angle of our front which had its apex at Verdun the Allies were 
now in the position which the Germans had held in the northern 
salient before the March offensive. They could strike at their will 
east into Lorraine, or north down the Meuse and into Champagne, 
and till the attack was delivered the enemy could not tell which 
side was their objective. In that angle lay the United States First 
Army, and other American armies would follow, so that the con- 
centration of the great new Allied reserves had taken place in a 
region which menaced more than any other the whole existence 
of the German front. No enemy salient any longer was left as 
an advance guard in the West. 

Something still remained to be done in the north, for in certain 
sections Haig was not yet in close enough touch with the Siegfried 
zone. On the 13th Byng advanced in the Gouzeaucourt and 
Havrincourt area ; on the 15th Rawlinson took Maissemy, and on 
the 17th Holnon. Meantime, on the 14th, Mangin and Degoutte 
had attacked north of the Aisne and along the Vesle, and the 
former took AUemant and LafTaux Mill, and next day Vailly and 
the key position of Mont des Singes. On the i8th Byng and 
Rawlinson struck on a front of thirteen miles between Holnon 
and Gouzeaucourt, and made an advance of some two miles, 
while a counter-attack between Trescault and Moeuvres was re- 
pulsed during the afternoon. Next day Byng retook Moeuvres, 
the greater part of which had been lost on the 17th. On the i8th 
Debeney, fighting on a front of six miles west and south-west of 
St. Quentin, took Savy Wood, and on the 19th Humbert increased 
his ground east of the Crozat Canal. All this time Plumer and 
Home were steadily making local gains in their area to prepare the 
way for the coming battle. Thereafter there was a lull, but on 
the 24th Rawlinson pushed forw^ard between the Omignon and 
St. Quentin, and took Selency. South of St. Quentin Debeney 
had been steadily creeping on, and by the 24th had taken Essigny, 
and reached the right bank of the Oise. The stage had now been 
set, and Byng, Rawlinson, Debeney, and Humbert from the Scarpe 
to the Oise were close up against the last German defences, while 
Mangin had fought his way to the edge of the Chemin des Dames. 

Foch was now ready for his supreme effort. Since 15th July 
he had reduced the enemy's strength by half a million, and with 
the aid of the American reserves had increased his own by the same 
number. Ludendorff had no longer sufhcient troops to defend 
his long western front. He could only save a breakdown in one 
part by thinning another, and if the attacks were simultaneous 



336 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Sept. 

he could not repel them. His sole hope was his water-line and the 
Siegfried zone, continued to the south and east by the Brunehilde 
and Hunding lines — positions to which the Allies had not yet 
advanced. The Siegfried zone, as German military commentators 
about this time told their countrymen for their comfort, was not 
a line, but a fortressed quadrilateral, 38 miles by 25, "a granite 
wall of 24,000 square kilometres." Ludendorff issued to his divi- 
sions elaborate instructions about tactical precautions against 
tanks, but he relied chiefly on his prepared defences. These, he 
hoped, would enable him to stand with a minimum garrison, till 
such time as the coming of winter took the edge off the Allies' 
ardour. 

But before Foch struck news came of great doings in the East. 
On I2th September Franchet d'Esperey had moved forward in the 
Balkans, and on the 19th AUenby had begun his whirlwind advance 
in Palestine. Germany was already drawing in all her outland 
detachments for the defence of the West ; she was pleading with 
Austria for support ; and Turkey and Bulgaria were left to their 
own resources. The moment had come £or the Allies to press in 
everywhere on the yielding fortress. 



CHAPTER XCVIII 

THE DOWNFALL OF BULGARIA AND TURKEY 
December g, igij - October z^, 1918 

Bulgaria's Growing Discontent — Allied and Enemy Dispositions in the Balkans 

— The Attack of 1 5th September — The Serbians break the Bulgarian Front 

— Capture of Prilep — Attack of British and Greeks — Bulgaria sues for 
Peace — The Armistice signed — Consequences for Germany — AUenby's 
Doings after the Capture of Jerusalem — Jericho taken — The Two Raids 
East of Jordan — The Summer Stagnation — The Final Campaign — 
Its Plan — The Attack of 21st September — Destruction of Turkish VIIL 
and VIL Armies — Retreat of Turkish IV. Army — Capture of Damascus — 
Capture of Aleppo — Bagdad Railway reached — Turkey surrenders. 

I 

On 2 1 St June M. Malinov succeeded M. Radoslavov as Premier 
of Bulgaria. There was no popular movement behind the change ; 
it was devised and executed by King Ferdinand, with the con- 
currence of the fallen Premier ; and its motive was to give the 
Government a spurious air of reformation in the event of negotia- 
tions with the Allies. M. Malinov was a politician with an am- 
biguous record, having been by turns Russophil and Germanophil ; 
his chief characteristic was that, whatever faction he belonged 
to, he kept a foot in the other camp. For honest politics there 
was scant hope in any class of the public men then flourishing 
in Bulgaria. Scarcely one but had subscribed to her wildest de- 
mands for territorial acquisitions in Greek and Serbian Macedonia ; 
scarcely one but had afifirmed with every emphasis of rhetoric 
his undying devotion to the cause of the Central Powers. 

Yet in June, in spite of Germany's apparent triumphs in the 
West, Bulgaria was beginning to grow anxious. During the 
previous winter large sections of her population had been starving, 
for Germany had systematically plundered her of food-stuffs. Her 

337 



338 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [May-Aug. 

administration was corrupt and incapable ; her army was on 
short rations, and ill supplied with boots and clothing. From 
January i, 1918, Germany had ceased to pay the monthly subsidy, 
and from ist March had refused to be responsible for munitions. 
Bulgaria looked with uneasy eyes on Turkey's new arrogance, which 
led her to defy Germany in her Transcaucasian policy ; and the 
question of the Dobrudja was becoming rapidly a bone of con- 
tention between all the partners of the Teutonic League. By 
the Peace of Bucharest Constanza and the greater part of the 
Dobrudja had been placed under a condominium of Bulgaria's allies, 
and she could get no assurance that her will would ultimately pre- 
vail. She was quarrelling bitterly with Turkey over Thracian 
questions, and there also Germany seemed inclined to temporize 
with Constantinople. Bulgaria, herself skilled in political treachery , 
saw too clearly the signs of the same thing in her masters. She 
sought to establish her autocracy in the Balkans, but she had no 
desire to be herself a part of the greater autocracy of Berlin. Fer- 
dinand, who dabbled in the classics, may have remembered the 
Roman historian's phrase: "Cermani sociis pariter atque hostibus 
servitudinem imposuerant." * Above all, he was a shrewd observer, 
and judged rightly the weakness of Germany's whole position. 
So, while he was loud in his protestations of loyalty to the Teu- 
tonic League, in which all his Ministers joined, he was casting 
about for some cover should the skies fall. To quote again M. de 
Kallay's saying, he was looking for the cart filled with straw in 
case he might have to jump from the window, f 

The Allied front in the Balkans had been all but stagnant since 
the futile offensive of May 1917. In December of that year the 
Commander-in-Chief, General Sarrail , who had shown little capacity , 
had been recalled, and his place taken by General Guillaumat, 
the former commander of the French Second Army. Throughout 
the early part of 191 8 there had been a considerable readjustment 
of the Allied troops. Units had been withdrawn from the French 
and British commands for the front in the West, but the Italians 
had strengthened their force in Albania, and the new Greek Army 
had been so greatly increased that it represented the largest Allied 
contingent. On 30th May the troops raised by Venizelos showed 
their quality by attacking the Bulgarian positions just west of 
the Vardar, on a front of seven and a half miles, advancing one 

* "The Germans had imposed slavery on friend and foe alike." — Tacitus, 
Hist., IV., p. 73. 
t See Vol. II., p. 338. 



I9I8] SAL0NIK7V FRONT IN 1918 339 

and a quarter miles, and taking 2,000 prisoners. The movement 
was carried out by the Seres Division, which had the humihation 
of Fort Rupel to avenge, and it gave them command of the Lium- 
nitsa valley in which Ghevgeli stood. 

In June, Franchet d'Esperey succeeded Guillaumat ; and 
during the summer, by a number of local actions, the position of 
the Allied front was eased and strengthened. Meantime the moral 
of the Bulgarian forces was not improving, desertions were frequent, 
and a minor offensive planned to take place west of Lake Ochrida 
had to be postponed for this reason. During July the French 
and Italians moved south-west of Ochrida in the direction of 
Elbasan, their purpose being to straighten the front between the 
Adriatic and the lake. The important road junction of Berat was 
taken by the Italians, and over a thousand prisoners. The failure 
of the Austrian attack in Italy led to a steady activity by both 
sides in Albania. Towards the close of July an Austrian counter- 
attack drove General Ferrero back to Berat, thereby endangering 
the French on his right. Between 22nd and 26th August further 
counter-attacks retook Berat and forced Ferrero back some five 
miles to the Malakastra ridge, which was the last defence of the 
harbour of Valona. This withdrawal necessitated a further retreat 
of the French left wing. Thereafter, the Albanian front was quiet, 
and the interest of Europe in the Balkan battle-ground languished. 
Its difficulties were so notorious, the demands of other areas so 
urgent, that it was generally believed that the war would end with 
the opposing forces much in their present positions. 

This expectation was to be dramatically reversed. The Allied 
High Command perceived that, so soon as Germany was gravely 
jeopardized in the West, there must come a weakening of the 
allegiance of her Eastern allies ; for their hope of military support 
from her would be gone, and the bribes for which they had espoused 
her cause would become the most worthless of promissory notes. 
A vigorous attack upon Bulgaria and Turkey would, at its worst, 
complicate Germany's military problem, and at its best might 
put these discontented tributary states out of action. In the case 
of Bulgaria the best was scarcely to be hoped for, so formidable 
seemed her mountain defences. But a bold offensive might dis- 
integrate her political unity, and bring to a head the dissatisfaction 
of her people and her armies with what promised to be a campaign 
of barren sacrifice. 

The enemy front was held from left to right by the Bulgarian 
IV. Army, under Tochev, from the river Mesta to Lake Tahinos ; 



340 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Sept. 

the Bulgarian II. Army, under Lukov, from Tahinos to Doiran ; the 
Bulgarian I. Army, under Neresov, from Doiran to the bend of the 
Tcherna ; the German XI. Army (Bulgarian in constitution, but 
with a German Staff and under the German general, Stoibel) from 
the Tcherna bend to the Skumbi valley ; and an Austrian detach- 
ment in Albania. Facing it from east to west lay the British and 
Greeks east of the Vardar ; the French and Serbians (the latter in- 
cluding Southern Slav regiments) between the Vardar and Monastir ; 
an Italian detachment, under General Mombelli, west of Mon- 
astir ; a further French contingent, and then Ferrero's Italians to 
the Adriatic. Of the total Allied forces, Greece supplied nine 
divisions, France eight, Serbia five, Britain four, and Italy, apart 
from her Albanian army, had one and a half divisions at Monastir. 
The enemy forces were some fifteen or sixteen divisions in line, which 
with reserves totalled 265 Bulgarian and three German infantry 
battalions, besides fourteen pioneer battalions and forty-eight 
cavalry squadrons. Germany was aware of the weakness of the 
front, but took no steps to remedy it. She was not averse to 
Bulgaria's suffering a local defeat, which might make her an easier 
ally to manage, and she seems, strangely enough, to have been con- 
vinced that the Greek army, when it came to fighting, would in large 
part desert to her side. But the gravest weakness lay not in in- 
feriority of numbers and equipment, but in division of command. 
The Bulgarian II. and IV. Armies were under the Bulgarian com- 
mander-in-chief, Jekov, but the Bulgarian I. and the German XI. 
Armies were the group command of General von Scholtz. 

The key to the Bulgarian front was Uskub, for, if that place 
were won, the communications would be cut between the two parts 
of the enemy force. An advance against it by the narrow trench 
of the Vardar valley was out of the question, and it could be taken 
only by a turning movement from the east or the west. On the 
east such an operation was impracticable, because of the great 
barrier of the main Balkan range running from west to east. On 
the west there was better hope, for there the ranges ran irregularly 
with a general direction of north to south. In the autumn of 1916 
the Allies had taken Monastir ; but their advance could not be 
continued, since east of the town was the great bend of the Tcherna, 
containing the Selechka Mountains, and while the enemy held 
these it was difficult to advance towards Prilep and the Babuna 
Pass, which led to Uskub. The first stage in any action must 
be to clear the Tcherna bend and the Selechka range. 

Franchet d'Esperey resolved to make his attack, not from 



1918] THE ALLIED ATTACK 341 

Monastir, but from the cast in the space between the Tcherna 
and the Vardar. In that area, north and north-east from Lake 
Ostrovo, the Allied front lay roughly along the Kaimakchalan and 
Dobropolye ranges, which formed the old Serbian frontier; but 
in certain vital parts the Bulgarians held the crest, and had created 
along the south slopes an apparently impregnable position. Fran- 
chet d'Esperey's plan was to take the enemy by surprise with an 
attack on a narrow front, and in the event of success to extend 
his area of assault on both flanks and make a push for the Tcherna. 
He argued that if he could carry the first and second Bulgarian 
lines on his side the river, the enemy's resistance might be so 
weakened as to permit of a real break through ; for, though the 
Bulgarian communications were better than those of the Allies, 
they were fighting in a sense on exterior lines, and it might be 
possible by a swift advance to split their front. To puzzle the 
enemy as to the area of the main attack the British 27th Division 
on 1st September made a feint attack in the Vardar valley. 

On Saturday, 14th September, the Allied guns bombarded 
heavily the line which ran north-east from Kaimakchalan. Early 
on the morning of Sunday the 15th, the Serbians, under Mishitch, 
with the French in their left, attacked the seven-mile front be- 
tween Mount Sokol and Vetrenik, held by the Bulgarian 2nd Divi- 
sion. They were immediately successful. With a fury hoarded 
through two years of difficult waiting, the Serbs pressed up the 
steep hillsides, won the crest, and carried all the enemy's first line. 
The French were stayed for a time at the razor back of Sokol, but 
early on the i6th this was taken, and, according to plan, the front 
of attack was enlarged on both sides to some sixteen miles. That 
day the Allies went five miles forward, and through the enemy 
second lines ; the Southern Slav Division fighting with the Serbs 
had reached the vital crest of Koziak, nearly 6,000 feet high, and 
were looking down on the affluents of the lower Tcherna ; more 
than 3,000 prisoners and 24 guns had been taken at the expense 
of few Allied casualties. The right of the German XI . Army, which 
might have saved the situation by a counter-stroke, remained 
mysteriously supine, and presently paid the price of its impassivity. 

It was one of those assaults the impetus of which grows with 
each mile of advance. On the 17th the Allies were twenty miles 
beyond their starting-point, and their front had stretched to a 
width of twenty miles. On the i8th the Serbians had reached 
and crossed the Tcherna, and were pushing towards Prilep by the 
eastern skirts of the Selechka Mountains, while their cavalry had 



342 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Sept. 

entered Poloshko, and their right wing was approaching the Vardar 
itself. A Httle more and the road and railway would be cut, which 
formed the immediate connection between the enemy's right and 
left armies. Meantime, the British and the Greeks facing the Bul- 
garian I. and II. Armies made certain that no reserves would be 
sent westward, for on the i8th they attacked east and west of 
Lake Doiran, while the Greek ist Corps of three divisions pinned 
the enemy down on the Struma. 

The Doiran battle was a hard struggle, for the enemy was pre- 
pared, and knew the place for the key of his whole front. General 
Milne had but two corps, the I2th and the i6th, both now fallen 
below one-half of their normal establishment. West of the lake 
lay the British 26th and 22nd Divisions, the Greek Seres Division, 
and a French regiment, the whole under Lieutenant-General Sir 
H. F. Wilson. East of the lake was the Cretan Division and the 
British 28th Division, both under the other corps commander, 
Lieutenant-General Sir C. F. Briggs. On the 18th the Allies won 
ground in both areas, but not their whole objectives. The height 
called the Grand Couronne, which had baffled us the year before, 
still repelled our efforts. On the 19th' the attack was repeated, 
but still the front held. Meantime, to the west the whole line was 
in action from Monastir to the Vardar. The Serbians were across 
that river and far north of the Tcherna, and the enemy was retreat- 
ing in complete disorder, burning the villages which he abandoned. 
By the 22nd the Bulgarian II. Army, which had made a gallant 
resistance, was compelled at last to fall back from the Doiran front, 
closely pursued by the British and the Greeks. By the night of 
the 23rd the Serbians were in Gradsko, and since the 15th had 
advanced forty miles — beyond doubt one of the major exploits 
of the campaign. The British and Greeks were pressing east of 
the Vardar, across the Belesh Mountains, towards the Strumnitza ; 
the French were approaching Prilep ; and Mombelli's Italians 
were moving north and east of Monastir into the Tcherna bend. 
Next day French cavalry entered Prilep, and found huge quan- 
tities of abandoned stores. 

The Bulgarian position was now beyond hope. The direct 
communications of their armies were completely severed ; more, 
their broken right wing had now but one way of retreat open — the 
road from Prilep by Kirchevo and Uskub. By the evening of 
the 25th the Serbians had the Babuna Pass and the town of Ishtip ; 
they were close on Veles, and Uskub was almost within their grasp. 
The enemy front was cut in two, and the halves driven into a diver- 



I9i8] COLLAPSE OF BULGARIA 343 

gent retreat. Its right wing, the German XI. Army, was being 
pressed north-east towards Kaikandelcn. Its left wing, the I. 
and II. Bulgarian Armies, was pushed north to the Strumnitza, 
and the British* had entered Bulgaria at Kosturino, a hundred 
miles south of Sofia. The Austrians in Albania had their flank 
in the air. 

Moreover, the enemy was now making but a poor defence. 
The spirit had clearly gone out of him, and he was being flung from 
post to pillar at the Allies' will. He was manifestly beaten and 
demoralized, and he owed his condition partly to the gross mis- 
handling of the situation for the past year by Germany, which 
had weakened both the moral and the physique of his armies, and 
partly to the superior prowess of his opponents. The conduct of 
all sections of the Allied command had been exemplary, and especial 
mention should be made of the Greeks and the Serbians. Veni- 
zelos' new levies had behaved like veterans, and had shown a fight- 
ing quality scarcely revealed in their race since the great age of 
Hellas. As for the Serbians and the Southern Slavs, they had 
advanced with the patient and unrelenting fury of men who have 
to avenge a martyred people and a ruined land. They swarmed 
over precipitous mountains as if they had been level lawns ; they 
broke through the strongest defences like steel through wax ; by 
sheer indomitable courage they routed the enemy wherever and 
in whatever numbers they found him. The crumbling Teutonic 
League was faced by men who had already gone through the nether 
pit of suffering, and for whom nothing mortal had any terrors. 

For Bulgaria the end had come. She saw no prospect of aid 
from her allies, and, now as ever a devotee of realpolitik, she 
resolved to make the best of a bad business. On the night of 
Thursday the 26th, a Bulgarian staff officer appeared under a 
flag of truce at the British Headquarters. Speaking on behalf of 
the Bulgarian Commander-in-Chief, he asked for a suspension of 
hostilities for forty-eight hours, to permit the arrival of authorized 
delegates to discuss the conditions of peace. Milne referred the 
request by telephone to Franchet d'Esperey, who refused the 
armistice but undertook to receive the delegates. On the evening 
of Saturday, the 28th, Lukov, Commanding the Bulgarian II. 
Army, the Bulgarian Minister of Finance, and M. Radev, the ex- 
Minister, arrived at Salonika, and next day were received by Fran- 
chet d'Esperey. They accepted without demur the Allied terms. 

* The Derbyshire Yeomanry, the leading troops of the i6th Corps, who had 
been brought from the right to the left of the Anglo-Hellenic Army. 



344 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

These were: that the Bulgarian army should be immediately 
demobilized and its arms and equipment placed in Allied custody ; 
that all Greek and Serbian territory at present occupied by Bulgaria 
should be at once evacuated ; that all her means of transport, 
including her railways and her ships on the Danube, should be 
placed at the Allies' disposal ; that she should cease to be a bellig- 
erent except with the Allies' consent ; that her territory should 
be available for their operations, and that strategic points should 
be occupied by British, French, or Italian troops.* On the morn- 
ing of Monday, 30th September, these conditions were ratified by 
the Allied Governments. At noon the armistice was signed at 
Salonika, and Bulgaria ceased to be a participant in the war. Mean- 
time, in the past few days the Allied armies had been sweeping 
forward. On the 27th the British took Strumnitza, and advanced 
north and east along the river valley. On that day the Serbians 
captured Veles, and on the 30th French cavalry entered Uskub. 
Farther to the west the French and Italians reached the Elbasan- 
Ochrida road, and in Albania Ferrero advanced and took Berat. 

The news of Bulgaria's defection brought consternation to 
Berlin. At first the German view was that Malinov had engineered 
it without the consent of the king and the people ; but this argument 
was speedily dropped when it became apparent that it was the 
people and the army who had forced the step, and that the views 
of Ferdinand mattered nothing. Then came brave talk of holding 
the Danube front, and the name of Mackensen was brought forward 
as a warning to check the Allied rejoicings. But Mackensen was 
in no position to help. He had four divisions in Rumania, and 
there were some thirty German and fourteen Austro-Hungarian 
divisions in Russia, much depleted and of poor quality. But the Cen- 
tral Powers were not so beloved on that front as to make it possible 
to send reinforcements to the Danube, and even if they could, they 
could not hope to check Franchet d'Esperey's advance. Germany 
had perforce to acknowledge defeat in that quarter, and do nothing. 

Events marched swiftly in the Balkans. On 4th October 
Ferdinand abdicated in favour of the Crown Prince Boris, and 
retired to his estates in Hungary. The new king issued a procla- 
mation announcing that he would respect the constitution, and 
was "imbued with the spirit of democracy." The Allies advanced 
to the Danube, meeting with no resistance except from the broken 
Austro-German fragments now littered throughout Serbia. On 
I2th October the Serbians entered Nish, their ancient capital. 
* See Appendix, p. 445. 



THE DEFEAT OF BULGARIA. 




1 ''-.^^4- "' 





i---*?- .-.**■ a 



I9i8] THE ALLIES REACH THE DANUBE 345 

There had been a brilliant naval raid on Durazzo by Italian and 
British cruisers on 2nd October; on the 7th the Italians occupied 
Elbasan, and on the 14th they took Durazzo. On the 19th, twenty- 
four days after the launching of the offensive, the Allies reached 
the Bulgarian shore of the Danube. By the end of the month 
the Serbians were in Belgrade, and the Balkan states south of the 
Danube and the Save were virtually cleared of the enemy. 

The downfall of Bulgaria was such a peripeteia as rarely occurs 
in a campaign. In an area which had been, by almost universal 
consent, written down as incapable of producing a military decision, 
a heterogeneous Allied force moved against defences, elaborated 
during three years, in what was little more than an exploratory 
operation. There was no vital strategic objective within forty 
miles, and those miles were made up of precipitous mountains and 
unfordable rivers. Yet in three days the formidable enemy was 
in flight ; in a fortnight he had made peace on terms of complete 
surrender ; and in three weeks the Allied cavalry were watering 
their horses in the Danube. Bulgaria's power of resistance had 
decayed at the heart. The Salonika campaign, which for three 
years had seemed to be a fruitless divergent adventure, now found 
its justification, because the foundations of victory had been laid 
on the main front in Western Europe. The Central Powers had 
been since 1914 a beleaguered fortress, and it is in the way of such 
fortresses to fall suddenly. To the besiegers the walls look as 
stout as ever and the garrisons as alert, but they cannot read the 
hearts within ; and lo ! when they attack for the hundredth time 
with a somewhat weary resolution, the flag falls and the gates are 
opened. 

Bulgaria had made little of her huckstering. Soured by the 
injustice of the old Treaty of Bucharest, and led by men without 
vision, she had deliberately chosen the path of the short view and 
the easy advantage. She had already paid a heavy toll in loss of 
men, in famine, and in a sordid bondage to Germany. She was now 
to pay the further penalty of surrendering her will as a nation 
and submitting humbly to justice. In her conduct of the war 
she had shown revolting brutality to Serbia and her Balkan neigh- 
bours ; but on the whole she had behaved well to prisoners of the 
Western Allies, and, apart from her initial treachery, her record 
was less black than that of her colleagues. For one man there 
could be no pity. Her wretched king was one of the meanest 
figures that ever degraded a throne. He fled to his refuge beyond 



346 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Dec.-Feb. 

the Danube, followed by the hatred of his subjects and the con- 
tempt of the civilized world. 

The immediate military consequences of Bulgaria's surrender 
were enormous for the strategy of the war. The southern frontiers 
of Austria and Rumania were thrown open to an Allied invasion. 
The subject races of Austria-Hungary were put in a new position 
of vantage in their struggle for independence. Above all, the 
direct communications were cut between Germany and Turkey. 
No longer could the "Balkanzug" start from Berlin on its four 
days' journey to Constantinople. It was true that Germany, 
owing to her command of the Black Sea, could still keep in touch 
with the Bosphorus through South Russia and Rumania, and, 
though Turkey was now outflanked, she was not yet surrounded. 
Had Germany the will to send support, she still had the routes, 
provided that Turkey had the will to resist. 

But Turkey was following fast upon Bulgaria's heels, and already 
that will had almost gone. For on iQih September Allenby had 
begun his amazing advance, and on the day when Bulgaria signed 
the capitulation he was already at the gates of Damascus. 



II 

The capture of Jerusalem on December 9, 191 7, left a curious 
situation. The Turkish Army was split into two parts, with its 
right wing holding a line curving south-east from about three miles 
north of Jaffa, and its left running in a semicircle north and east 
of Jerusalem astride the Nablus and Jericho roads, about six miles 
distant from the city. Between the two wings lay a patch of 
rocky hill country, with no lateral communications except those 
far in the rear. Clearly the next step in AUenby's campaign must 
be to push east of the Jordan and cut the Hedjaz railway, with 
the assistance of the Arab army from the south. But in that 
intricate campaigning ground an advance was impossible without 
careful preliminaries. When a move came it was swift and 
sudden, but it must be preceded by long preparation. His first 
care was to secure his advanced bases at Jaffa and Jerusalem, for 
the enemy was too close to both of them for comfort. 

This work was performed during the last ten days of December. 
On the night of the 20th the 21st Corps, on the British left, began to 
move. The 52nd Division crossed the El Auja stream in spite 
of its swollen current, established its footing on the northern bank, 



I9I7-I8] CAPTURE OF JERICHO 347 

and next day constructed bridges and brought over Its guns. On 
the 22nd the 54th Division, on the right, swung forward and took 
the villages of Rantieth and Fejja ; while the 52nd passed beyond 
their objectives, and secured high ground that denied any obser- 
vation over JafTa harbour to the enemy. These operations drove 
the Turks eight miles from JafTa, and gave the 21st Corps elbow- 
room. Meantime the task of the 20th Corps, on the British right, 
had been delayed by the wild weather of the week before Christmas. 
On the night of 26th December the enemy opened an attack astride 
the Jerusalem-Nablus road. The 60th Division bore the brunt 
of it ; and an assault was also made on the line held by the 53rd 
Division north-east of Jerusalem. The two divisions held the 
enemy, and by noon of the 27th the 74th and loth Divisions had 
counter-attacked, and driven in the Turkish right. That evening 
the enemy's attempt had wholly failed, and on the 28th the 20th 
Corps made a general advance northward. By the night of the 
30th it had progressed on a twelve-mile front to a depth of from 
two to three miles. The result of the operations was that not only 
had the enemy attempt to retake Jerusalem been defeated, but the 
area held by the British around Jaffa and Jerusalem had been 
substantially increased, and their main line of lateral communi- 
cation, the Jaffa-Jerusalem road, put out of danger. 

Any further progress northward was out of the question till high- 
ways had been improved and the railway from the south brought 
nearer the front. Allenby's next step must be to secure his right 
flank by driving the enemy beyond the Jordan, a step which was 
necessary both as a preparation for a northern advance and to 
secure a starting-point for an attack upon the Hedjaz line. He 
had already made up his mind that his main advance, when the 
time came for it, would be by the coastal plain, and it was therefore 
his object to draw as much as possible of the enemy strength east 
of Jordan by capturing points which would threaten the security 
of the vital junction of Deraa. The land between Jerusalem and 
the Jordan valley was no easy country to operate in. It fell steeply 
in a succession of stony ridges and deep-cut glens to the great trench 
more than 1,000 feet below sea-level. The work was entrusted to 
the 6oth and 53rd Divisions, and the Australian and New Zealand 
Mounted Division was for the time being attached to the 20th 
Corps, On February 19, 1918, the 6th Division advanced, and car- 
ried El Muntar, the most conspicuous crest among the ridges. Be- 
hind it the mounted troops were able to assemble in cover, and on 
the 20th Talaat ed Dumm was taken, which the Arabs call the Hill 



348 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [March 

of Blood. All day the two Infantry divisions crept forward, and 
the cavalry assisted in a terrain such as cavalry has rarely operated 
in. At 8.20 on the morning of the 2 1st the Australians rode into 
Jericho, patrols were pushed forward to the banks of the Jordan, 
and the Turks retired across the river. It had been a difficult 
piece of work, performed through appalling country in the worst 
of weather. So impossible was the ground that one battery of 
field artillery took thirty-six hours to cover eight miles. 

Allenby's right flank was now secure, but he must broaden 
his base before he could undertake an attack east of Jordan against 
the Hedjaz railway. He must seize the high ground on the north 
bank of the Wadi el Aujah, which enters the river north of Jericho, 
and thereby control the approaches by the road from Beisan ; and 
he must push north of Jerusalem on both sides of the Nablus road 
so as to prevent the use by the enemy of all the northern routes to 
the lower Jordan valley. The 201.1. Corps was accordingly disposed 
in two parts. Its right wing endeavoured to secure the Jordan 
to a point north of the Wadi el Aujah ; then came a gap which 
was sufficiently protected by the Intricate nature of the country ; 
beyond that its centre and left were directed along the Nablus 
road to the hne Sinjil-Deir es Sudan. It was arranged that the 
2 1 St Corps should make a small movement to conform. The total 
advance contemplated was one of seven miles on a front of twenty- 
six. This stage In the operations began on 8th March. At first 
It went swiftly ; but on the 9th resistance stiffened, and the 20th 
Corps had some heavy fighting before, on nth March, it obtained 
its objectives. Next day the 2 1st Corps completed Its share of 
the work. AUenby had won a strong defensive Hne, which pro- 
tected his flank in any movement beyond the Jordan. 

On 1st March Liman von Sanders took over from Falkenhayn 
the chief command in Palestine. He had been promised by Enver 
whole-hearted support and that no operation would be undertaken 
elsewhere ; but Enver did not keep his word, and at the very mo- 
ment was secretly planning an advance In the Caucasus. The new 
commander found the Turkish forces in poor condition, badly 
supplied, chronically short of drafts, and strategically Ill-placed. 
The VIII. Army, under Djevad, was on the coastal plain ; the VII., 
under Fevzi, lay astride the Jerusalem-Nablus road to the Jordan. 
East of the river was the IV. Army, entrusted with the defence 
of the Hedjaz railway, and with its units widely scattered. This 
last army was not under the direct command of Liman von Sanders, 
who was indeed utterly opposed to the whole railway defensive. 



I9i8] THE TRANS-JORDAN CAMPAIGN 349 

He would have concentrated everything against Allenby, and 
left Medina to its fate ; as it was, the precarious undefined 
left wing must paralyze any serious strategy and dissipate such 
strength as remained in the Turkish forces. 

The way had now been prepared for a serious attempt by Allenby 
on the Hedjaz railway, in conjunction with the Arab army from the 
south. The latter force, under Sherif Feisul, the son of the King of 
the Hedjaz, was based on Akaba, and since the beginning of the year 
had been pushing north up the Hedjaz line till it was within seven 
miles of Maan, while isolated detachments were well to the north- 
west of that place, and had raided and cut the railway. In the 
words of Colonel T. E. Lawrence, the process was to set up "ladders 
of tribes," giving a safe route from the sea-bases like Wejh and 
Akaba to the advanced bases of operation. Tafileh, fifteen miles 
from the south-east corner of the Dead Sea, had been taken by 
the Arabs, and held till enemy reinforcements reoccupied it in 
March. Allenby's first plan was for a raid on the line, which 
would damage it by the destruction of the viaduct and tunnel near 
Amman, and might, by forcing the recall of the Tafileh and Maan 
garrisons, open the way for Sherif Feisul. 

Amman lay thirty miles north by east of Jericho. Beyond 
the Jordan was a mile or so of marsh and scrub ; then clay ridges 
deeply cut by gullies ; and beyond them the stony and swampy 
plateau of Moab. Amman itself lay in a pocket of the tableland, 
through which ran the Hedjaz line. The expedition, which was 
entrusted to the 60th Division, the Australian and New Zealand 
Mounted Division, the Imperial Camel Corps, and brigades 
of light-armoured cars and mountain artillery, started on the night 
of 2 1st March in a deluge of rain. Moving down the Valley of 
Achor, the troops found themselves faced with a river in roaring 
flood and severe Turkish fire from the scrub on the left bank. 
Swimmers managed to reach the farther shore with tow-ropes, 
and by 7.45 next morning the leading battalion had crossed. By 
8.30 a bridge was completed, but it was not possible to enlarge the 
bridgehead so long as daylight lasted, owing to the violence of the 
enemy fire. Early on the morning of the 23rd a New Zealand 
regiment managed to cross, and, galloping northward, drove off 
the Turks from the bank. That day three bridges were built, 
and by 10 p.m. the 60th Division and most of the cavalry were 
east of the river. 

On the 24th the 60th Division, working its way up the gullies, 
carried the position at Shunet Nimrin, which protected the pass 



350 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [April 

leading to Es Salt, and advanced four miles along the Amman 
road, while the mounted troops followed the tracks to Ain es Sir 
and Naaur. The weather was an unceasing downpour of rain ; 
all Vv^heeled transport had to be sent back, and the horses could 
barely keep their footing on the muddy slopes. The cavalry 
reached Naaur on the evening of the 25th and Ain es Sir on the 
morning of the 26th. The last dash for the railway now began, the 
Australians aiming at the line north of Amman, the New Zealanders 
at the line south of it, and the Imperial Camel Corps at Amman 
itself. By the evening of the 27th tne New Zealanders reached 
the railway ; but the Camel Corps was checked a mile west of 
Amman, and the Australians were also held, though one of their 
demolition parties blew up a bridge north of the town. On the 
28th a brigade of the 60th Division came up, and a general attack 
was made on the Amman position, but without success. Things 
went no better next day, for the Turks had received reinforce- 
ments. At two in the morning of the 30th the attack was renewed ; 
but since artillery could not be brought up, owing to the state of 
the roads, it was clear that success was impossible. Moreover, 
enemy forces from the north were threatening our rear at Es Salt, 
for the trans-Jordan advance had created an acute salient in the 
British front. Accordingly, Allenby withdrew his troops, and by 
2nd April the whole force had recrossed the Jordan, except for a 
garrison left on the east bank to hold a bridgehead. 

One result of the operations had been to concentrate all avail- 
able Turkish troops, including part of the garrison of Maan, for 
the defence of Amman. This gave Sherif Feisul his opportunity. 
His patrols cut the Hedjaz line north and south of Maan, and on 
13th April he carried Senna, and on the 17th the station of Maan 
itself. There, however, he was checked, and being short of am- 
munition, fell back on Senna. Meantime, he had made havoc of 
large sections of the railway both south and north of Maan. 

The British withdrawal behind the Jordan allowed the Turks 
to reoccupy the strong Shunet Nimrin position, from which on 
nth April they made heavy and futile attacks on our bridgehead. 
Allenby resolved to make a second raid into Gilead, to try and 
cut off the forces at Shunet Nimrin, which were some 5,000 strong, 
and to endeavour to hold Es Salt till Feisul could come up from 
the south, with the object of denying the enemy the use of the 
coming harvest. A brigade of the 6oth Division was to attack 
at Shunet Nimrin, while a mounted force, consisting of the better 
part of the Desert Mounted Corps, was to move northward from 



I9i8] THE SUMMER STAGNATION 351 

Ghoraniyeh to Es Salt, cut the communications of the enemy at 
Shunet Nimrin, and occupy Jisr ed Damieh in the north, from 
which the flank attack had come that compelled our previous retire- 
ment. The British movement anticipated by a narrow margin a 
Turkish attack designed to drive back AUenby from his most 
advanced position just west of the Jordan. 

The operation began on 30th April, when the 60th Division 
captured the outworks at Shunet Nimrin, but could not carry the 
main position. The cavalry took Es Salt by the evening, and left 
an Australian brigade to guard its flank in the direction of Jisr 
ed Damieh. Early next morning, 1st May, this brigade was 
attacked by the 3rd Turkish Cavalry Division and part of the 24th 
Division, and was driven back with a considerable loss of guns 
and transport. This put the cavalry at Es Salt in an awkward 
predicament, for they were cut off from their base, since Shunet 
Nimrin had not fallen. Accordingly, it was arranged to attack 
the latter point again on 2nd May, the infantry of the 60th Divi- 
sion advancing from the west and the cavalry from Es Salt in the 
north-east. But on that day the cavalry had to fight a defensive 
battle at Es Salt, and so could give little assistance to the 60th 
Division, which made no headway. As the hoped-for Arab assist- 
ance had not been forthcoming, there was nothing for it but to 
withdraw. By the 4th of May the British troops, except for the 
bridgehead garrison, were again west of the Jordan. One principal 
result of these operations had been to convince the enemy that 
our plan of operation concerned the east of Jordan, with Deraa 
as a main objective. Liman strengthened the troops at Shunet 
Nimrin, and sent to Es Salt his chief reinforcement, the German 
146th Regiment from Macedonia — which was precisely the 
consequence which the British commander desired. One-third 
of the enemy force was now east of Jordan. 

For the time being Allenby had to hold his hand. The grave 
situation in Western Europe made it necessary for him to reor- 
ganize his forces, for all white troops that could be spared were 
ordered to France. Early in April the 52nd Division had gone, 
to be followed immediately by the 74th. Presently, nine regi- 
ments of Yeomanry left, ten more British battalions, and a number 
of siege batteries and machine-gun companies, and in May a further 
fourteen British battalions. To replace these losses the Indian 7th 
(Meerut) and 3rd (Lahore) Divisions arrived from Mesopotamia, 
and a number of Indian cavalry regiments and infantry battalions 
were dispatched from India — the result of the brilliant work in 



352 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Sept. 

reorganization performed by the Commander-in-Chief in India, 
Sir Charles Monro. In July and August a further batch of 
British battalions was replaced by Indian units. All this meant a 
reduction in fighting strength, and complicated provisions for re- 
adjustment and training. The summer could therefore witness no 
British offensive on a large scale. 

Nevertheless, there was a good deal of activity. Between 
the 9th and i ith of April the 21st Corps on the British left advanced 
three miles on a front of twelve, taking among other places the 
village of Rafat. On 8th June they again attacked on the coast, 
and deprived the enemy of important observation points. During 
July and August there were many successful raids by Indian infantry 
and cavalry. In July the Turks, stiffened by German battalions, 
made a vigorous attempt to break into the British salient which 
had its apex at the Jordan bridgehead. On the 14th they attacked 
its northern flank at Abu Tellul, on the Jericho-Beisan road, and 
after a momentary success were driven out by the 1st Australian 
Light Horse Brigade, with a loss of 276 Germans, including 12 
officers. A thrust at the same time against the Jordan bridge- 
head was anticipated and frustrated by the fine charge of an Indian 
cavalr>^ brigade. During these months, too, the Turks failed to 
restore the Hedjaz line north and south of Maan, and Medina was 
definitely cut off from the north. Much of the summer was spent 
by Liman in quarrelling with Constantinople. He could not get 
adequate supplies, the driblet of drafts received scarcely balanced 
the increasing desertions, and he complained bitterly of Enver's 
breach of faith in the Caucasian adventure. In August he told 
Ludendorff that he might hold his own in the coastal plain, but 
that he was in the gravest danger east of Jordan, where a defeat 
would be fatal ; yet he proposed to take the risk of standing his 
ground rather than embark on a lengthy retreat with troops whose 
moral was already shaken. The British strategy had been com- 
pletely successful ; the enemy had his mind centred upon his left 
wing. 

The stage in the Palestine campaign just recorded was in the 
main a stage of preparation, intermediate between the brilliant 
advance on Jerusalem and the still more brilliant operations which 
were presently to bring Allenby to Damascus and Aleppo. It 
had been most arduous campaigning, owing partly to the drench- 
ing rains of the early spring, and partly to the natural difficulties 
of the Jordan trench and the hills of Moab. Of its immediate 
results let Allenby speak : — 



I9i8] THE LAST CRUSADE 353 

"On 12th December the enemy still remained within four miles of 
Jerusalem. He is now twenty-two miles from the Holy City. To the 
east he has been driven across the Jordan, and his communications 
with the Hedjaz raided. His losses between December 12, 1917, and 
May 31, 19 1 8, were considerable, the number of prisoners amounting 
to 330 officers and 6,088 other ranks. His one attempt on a large 
scale to assume the offensive and retake Jerusalem failed, and was 
turned into a defeat, accompanied by a considerable loss of territory." 

We come now to what must rank among the most dramatic 
tales in the war, an exploit undertaken at the precise moment 
when its chances were brightest and its influence on the general 
strategy of the war most vital, perfectly planned, perfectly executed, 
and overu'helming in its success. The little campaign which 
began three years before on the banks of the Suez Canal had grown 
slowly to a major operation. In face of every difficulty the 
Allies had crept forward, first across the Sinai desert, then after 
long delays through the Turkish defences of the south, and then 
in a bold sweep to the gates of the Holy City. It had been always, 
so to speak, a campaign on sufferance, working only with the margin 
of strength which could be spared from the greater contest in the 
West. But it had moved patiently to its appointed end, for it was 
in the true tradition of those dogged older wars of Britain which 
had created her Empire. Her feet might be stayed for a season 
or retire, but in the long run they always moved forward. The 
Last Crusade was now approaching its climax, and the Crusaders 
would have startled the soul of St. Louis and Raymond and Richard 
of England could they have beheld that amazing army. For 
only a modest portion of it was drawn from the Western peoples. 
Algerian and Indian Moslems, Arab tribesmen, men of the thousand 
creeds of Hindustan, African negroes, and Jewish battalions were 
among the liberators of the sacred land of Christendom. 

In September the Turks held a front from the coast north of 
JafTa through the hills of Ephraim to a point half-way between 
Nablus and Jerusalem, and thence to the Jordan and down its 
eastern bank to the Dead Sea. On their left flank, at a considerable 
distance, the Arabs of Sherif Feisul were threatening the neigh- 
bourhood of Maan. The Turkish dispositions were, from west 
to east : the VIII. Army, under Djevad, comprising the 22nd and 
Asian Corps (the 7th, 20th, 19th, i6th, and 46th Divisions) ; the 
VII., under Fevzi, comprising the 3rd and 20th Corps (the 1st, 
nth, 26th, and 53rd Divisions) ; and, east of the Jordan, the IV., 
under Kutchuk Djemal, which included the 2nd and 8th Corps 



354 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Sept. 

(the 28th and 62nd Divisions), All these units were greatly below 
establishment. With a ration strength of over 100,000, they had 
in line only some 32,000 rifles, 4,000 sabres, and 400 guns, and the 
garrison of Maan and the posts on the Hedjaz railway gave them a 
further 6,000 rifles and 30 guns. Their general reserve was small — 
3,000 rifles and 30 guns, distributed between Tiberias, Nazareth, 
and Haifa. Against this force Allenby had two divisions of cavalry, 
two mounted divisions, seven infantry divisions (the Meerut, 
Lahore, 53rd, 54th, loth, 60th, and 75th — the British divisions 
having now a large admixture of Indian troops), an Indian infantry 
brigade, four extra battalions, and the equivalent of a French in- 
fantry brigade — a total of 12,000 sabres, 57,000 rifles, and 540 
guns. The situation had been reversed since the days of Gaza. 
Moreover, Liman von Sanders' command had behind it a record of 
failure ; and above it, as above the whole Teutonic League, the 
skies had darkened. 

It was in the Allied interest to strike soon, for beyond the enemy 
front lay the plains of Sharon and Esdraelon, which would become 
swamps with the first winter rains. Allenby's strategic plan could 
not be in doubt. It was difficult to join, hands with Feisul if the 
communications of any force east of the Jordan were liable to be 
cut by the enemy transferring troops from the west to the east 
bank, and this danger remained so long as the Turks controlled 
the crossing at Jisr ed Damieh. If, however, the enemy west of 
the Jordan were defeated, this obstacle would be removed, and 
the IV. Army east of the river must either retreat or be isolated. 
The communications of the VII. and VIII. Armies were very im- 
perfect, running mainly through Beisan to Damascus. This meant 
that the VIII. Army, on the enemy's right, had no direct communi- 
cation (all the routes trending north-east by El Afule and Beisan 
to the junction of the Palestine and Hedjaz lines at Deraa) except 
by the road along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Now, 
behind the Turkish front lay the hills of Samaria, stretching to 
the sea at Mount Carmel, and beyond these the plains of Esdraelon 
and the valley of Jezreel. If, therefore, the front of the VIII. 
.Army could be broken and our cavalry sent through, they might 
ride over the coastal Plain of Sharon, cross the hills, and reach 
Esdraelon and Jezreel before the enemy could make good his retreat. 
Once El Afule and Beisan were in our hands, the VIII. and VII. 
Armies would be cut off ; and if Deraa, east of the Jordan, could 
be reached by Feisul, the Turkish armies would cease to exist. 
Allenby, therefore, determined to thin his front elsewhere, and 



I9i8] ALLENBY'S PLAN 355 

concentrate his energies on breaking up the VIII. Army in the 
Plain of Sharon and opening a road for the cavalry. He was 
playing not for a local success, but for final victory, and he was 
preparing to use his cavalry as that arm had not been used since 
the outbreak of war. 

He made his dispositions with extreme care. Opposite the 
VIII. Army was the British 2 1st Corps, under Lieutenant-General 
Sir Edward Bulfin,now comprising the Lahore, Meerut, 54th, 6oth, 
and 75th Divisions, the French detachment and the 5th Australian 
Light Horse Brigade. Behind it lay the Desert Mounted Corps 
under Lieutenant-General Sir Harry Chauvel, waiting to exploit 
its success. The 20th Corps, under Lieutenant-General Sir Philip 
Chetwode, lay astride Nablus road and along the Jordan valley. 
It now contained only two infantry divisions (the 53rd and the 
loth), and most of the cavalry had gone to Bulfin's area. In order 
to screen their departure, Major-General Sir Edward Chaytor, with 
the Australian and New Zealand Mounted Division and various 
other infantry and cavalry units, was ordered to demonstrate 
eastward, as if an attack were contemplated beyond the Jordan. 
This led the enemy to keep the IV. Army in position, and to 
refrain from strengthening his threatened right wing. Finally, 
a mobile Arab column, under Feisul, supported by a French 
mountain battery and British armoured cars, assembled fifty miles 
east of Amman for the advance on Deraa. Our complete pre- 
eminence in the air prevented the Turkish aircraft from detecting 
these preparations, and four-fifths of the British force was con- 
centrated on one-fifth of the total front without a suspicion of the 
truth reaching the enemy. When our attack was launched, it fell 
everywhere with the shock of an utter surprise. 

At 4.45 on the morning of Thursday, 19th September, the 2 1st 
British Corps made its attack, its dispositions being, from left to 
right, the 60th Division, the Meerut, the 75th, the Lahore, the 
54th, and the French detachment. Progress on the right in the 
foothills was necessarily a little slow, but the centre and the left, 
in the Plain of Sharon, swept clean through the enemy's defences. 
His first positions, held by the Turkish 7th and 20th Divisions, 
fell at once. Presently the 60th Division were at the Nahr Falik 
(the stream by the side of which, in September 11 91, Coeur de Lion's 
English horsemen won their great victory), and were wheeling to 
the right against Tul Keram, leaving the coast road clear for the 
cavalry. By 11 a.m. the 75th Division, after a harder fight, had 
taken the ridge of Et Tireh, and the Lahore Division had taken 



356 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Sept. 

Jiljulieh (Gilgal), and were pressing into the foothills. The VIII. 
Army was in utter rout, pouring along the roads to Nablus and 
Messudieh, desperately harassed by our airmen and mounted troops, 
while the main body of our cavalry was riding for Esdraelon to cut 
them off in rear. 

That night Chetwode advanced with his 20th Corps to close 
the roads leading to the lower Jordan valley. The Turkish VII. 
Army fought well, but the 53rd and loth Divisions that night and 
the next day slowly pressed forward towards Nablus. On the 20th 
Bulfin, with the 21st Corps, moved through the mountains of 
Samaria, and by the evening reached the line Bakka-Beit Lud- 
Massudieh Station-Attara. The enemy's resistance was appreci- 
ably stiffening in that difficult country, and he was showing 
something of his traditional tenacity in defence. He did not 
realize that already his doom was sealed. 

For the cavalry had completely fulfilled their task. By noon 
on the 19th their leading troops were eighteen miles north of the 
old front line, and wheeling north-east towards Esdraelon and 
Jezreel. That afternoon they were through the last barrier of 
the Samarian hills. By 5.30 a.m. on the morning of the 20th the 
13th Brigade of the 5th Cavalry Division, which in less than 
twenty-four hours had ridden fifty miles, had reached Nazareth, 
and taken 2,000 prisoners, including part of the staff of Liman von 
Sanders, who only escaped by the skin of his teeth.* That night 
the 4th Cavalry Division reached Beisan, eighty miles from its 
starting-point, and seized the railway bridge over the Jordan, 
while the Australian Mounted Division took Jenin, and so closed 
the last outlet from the south. In thirty-six hours the trap had 
been shut. The2ist Corps held the line Samaria-Attara, the 20th 
Corps the high ground north-east of Nablus and Mount Ebal,and 
the cavalry the whole hinterland to the north. Between them 
lay the remnants of the Turkish VIII. and VII. Armies, with no 
possible way of escape except by the roads south-east to the Jordan 
crossing at Jisr ed Damieh. 

Every track was choked with the rout, camps and depots were 
in flames, and British airmen steadily bombarded each section 
of the retreat. At 1.30 on the morning of the 22nd the New Zea- 
land Mounted Rifles Brigade, and the West Indian battalions from 
Chay tor's force, seized the crossing at Jisr ed Damieh, and deprived 

* The brigade was too weak to occupy the whole town, and had to retire. 
Liman got most of his headquarters away by the Tiberias road, and himself 
left after midday. 



I9i8] THE RIDE FOR DAMASCUS 357 

the two Turkish armies of their last hope of retreat. They were 
being relentlessly driven by the Allied infantry into the arms of 
the cavalry. It remained only to reap the fruits of success. By 
the 24th the two armies had for the most part passed into our hands, 
with such of their stores as remained undestroyed. Meantime, 
while the 4th Cavalry Division and the Australian Mounted Divi- 
sion were collecting the fragments, the Desert Mounted Corps 
occupied Haifa and Acre, for it was necessary to clear the coast 
route as soon as possible to provide bases for the next advance. 

There now remained of all Liman's forces only the IV. Army, 
east of the Jordan. Till the third day of the battle it had shown 
no signs of moving, though the west bank of the river was falling 
steadily under our power. On the morning of the 23rd it began its 
retreat towards Es Salt and Amman, closely pursued by Chay tor's 
horsemen, and ruthlessly bombed from the air. That night the 
New Zealanders entered Es Salt, and two days later Amman fell. 
Maan had meantime been evacuated. Chay tor and Feisul had 
now joined hands, and the Arabs pressed the fleeing Turks north- 
ward along the Hedjaz railway. Chaytor remained at Amman 
to intercept the retreat of the 2nd Turkish Corps from the Hedjaz, 
and on the 28th duly added that unit to the list of captures. 

The game was wholly in AUenby's hands. His next step was 
to move on Damascus, and so intercept what was left of the Turkish 
IV. Army in its northward flight. It is likely that the bulk of 
that army might have reached Damascus in time to organize a 
defence, had it not been delayed by the brilliant destructive work 
done on the railway by Colonel Lawrence and his Arab Camel Corps 
— performances which for ingenuity and audacity recall some 
legend of the Arabian Nights. Chauvel and the Desert Mounted 
Corps were ordered to advance in two columns, one by the south 
end of the Sea of Galilee and Deraa, the other round the north end 
by Capernaum and El Kuneitra. On the 25th Tiberias was occu- 
pied, and the Australian Mounted Division concentrated there. 
On the afternoon of the 25th the 4th Cavalry Division moved out 
of Beisan on its 120-mile ride, and the Australians left the follow- 
ing day by the northern route. The left-hand column had a stiff 
fight at the crossing of the Jordan, and again at El Kuneitra ; but 
they made good progress round the skirts of Mount Hermon, and 
by 10 a.m. on the 30th were twelve miles south-west of Damascus, 
The right-hand column had meantime gained touch at Er Remte 
with the Arab forces, whose vanguards by the 27th had entrenched 
themselves seventeen miles north of Deraa, across the line of the 



358 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

Turkish retreat. Early that morning Lawrence's Arab Camel 
Corps entered Deraa, and the next day the 4th Cavalry Division 
and the Sherifian troops pushed northward. On the 30th the 
Australian Mounted Division had closed all the northern and north- 
western exits from Damascus, and the 5th Cavalry Division lay 
in the southern outskirts. At six in the morning of ist October 
Feisul and Chaytor entered the city.* 

It was the twelfth day from the opening of the attack. Three 
Turkish armies had melted away, over 60 ,000 prisoners and between 
300 and 400 guns were in Allenby's hands, and the dash for Damas- 
cus had destroyed the faintest expectation of an enemy stand. 
All that remained was a mob of 17,000 Turks and Germans, of whom 
perhaps 4,000 were effectives, fleeing north without discipline or 
purpose. Of the many brilliant episodes of those marvellous 
twelve days, perhaps the most brilliant was the converging move- 
ment of Chauvel's Desert Corps and Feisul's Arabs on the most 
ancient of the world's cities. Damascus had been an emporium 
when Tyre was young, and she was still a mighty city centuries 
after Tyre had become a shadow. Rich in holy places — for is it 
not on that minaret called the "Bride" of her great Mosque that, 
according to popular belief, the Lord will take His stand at the 
Day of Judgment? — she had one shrine of peculiar interest for 
this last Crusade. Within her walls lay the tomb of Saladin, the 
greatest of those who fought in Palestine the battle of Asia against 
Europe. One of Feisul's first acts was to remove the tawdry bronze 
wreath with which the German Emperor, In 1898, had seen fit to 
decorate the sleeping-place of the great Sultan. 

Allenby did not rest upon his laurels. His next objective was 
the line Rayak-Beirut, for he wanted a port and a railway running 
inland, to shorten his communications. On 6th October Rayak 
was occupied without trouble by the Desert Mounted Corps, and 
the junction with the broad-gauge line to Aleppo was won. Mean- 
time the Meerut Division had been marching north along the coast 
from Haifa through Tyre and Sidon, and on the 8th occupied 
Beirut amid the plaudits of the inhabitants. The rest was a 
triumphal procession. The Desert Corps reached Baalbek on the 
I ith, and, riding down the valley of Orontes, took Homs on the 15th. 
The Meerut Division, following the coast, occupied Tripolis on the 
i8th, thereby providing a shorter supply line for the cavalry at Homs. 

* A detachment of the Australian Light Horse Regiment reached the Serail 
at 6.30 a.m. ; Colonel Lawrence and the Camel Corps came a little later. 
Chauvel entered at 8.30 a.m. 



I9i8] THE ALLIES IN ALEPPO AND MOSUL 359 

The next and last stage was Aleppo, that great mart through 
which, in the Middle Ages, the wealth of Asia flowed to Venice 
and the West. The 5th Cavalry Division and the armoured cars 
were sent forward, and after a few small brushes with the enemy, 
reached the place on the 25th, where they were joined by an Arab 
detachment. Next day the town was cleared and occupied, Liman 
von Sanders having retired to Alexandretta. Our cavalry patrols 
advanced fifteen miles and occupied Muslimie Junction, thereby 
cutting the Bagdad railway. Since 19th September the Allies 
had moved their front 300 miles to the northward. They had 
taken over 75,000 prisoners and huge quantities of stores. They 
had entirely destroyed the Turkish armies in Syria, and driven 
the enemy back behind the Cilician Gates. They had cut, too, 
the much-prized line which was to link Berlin with the Persian 
Gulf. The Turkish Empire, and all the hopes that Germany had 
built on it, were crumbling under the deadly pressure from the 
south. 

It was the moment for Marshall to move in Mesopotamia. One 
British column advanced up the Tigris, and another along the 
Kifri-Kirkuk-Altun Keupri road. The left column, under Lieu- 
tenant-General Sir A. S. Cobbe, drove the Turkish force on the 
Tigris steadily back, cut off its retreat by means of an enflanking 
cavalry movement, and on the 30th October, near Sherghat, com- 
pelled its surrender. It numbered 7,000 men, under its general, 
Ismail Hakki. In the meantime the right-hand column had 
taken Kirkuk on the 25th and advanced to Altun Keupri. The 
resounding events in Syria had weakened the enemy resistance 
ever>^where, and its echoes were heard in Persia and Transcaspia. 
Mosul was now within General Marshall's reach, but when he 
entered it in the first days of November itwas without opposition. 
For Turkey, like Bulgaria, had followed the path of wisdom, and 
surrendered to the Allies. 

On the 3rd of July the Sultan Mohammed V. died. He was 
an old and feeble man at his best, and had never been more than 
a puppet in the hands of the Committee of Union and Progress. 
His successor — his brother, Mohammed VI. — had not been many 
weeks on the throne before he gave signs of some independence 
of character. The estrangement between Enver and Talaat was 
increasing, and as Germany's prospects darkened in the West the 
policy of sauve qui petit began to have supreme attractions for 
Turkey's governors. The defection of Bulgaria, and AUenby's 



360 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

exploits in Syria, gave impetus to the movement. On lOth Octo- 
ber Enver and Talaat resigned. On the iith Izzet, an honest 
soldier, succeeded Enver at the War Office, and Tewfik, a colour- 
less ex-diplomat, became Grand Vizier. Djavid remained Minister 
of Finance, and the constitution of the Government suggested 
that though Enver might have fallen, Talaat was still active behind 
the scenes, and the Committee still the repository of the supreme 
power. 

But the situation was too serious to be met by any juggling 
with Cabinet appointments. Turkey's end was near, and the 
blindest of the Young Turks was constrained to admit the truth. 
The British and French were at the Maritza and marching on 
Adrianople, and a Greek corps was moving between Kavala and 
Drama. Presently the enemy from the west would be at the gates 
of Stamboul. On the 14th October Turkey appealed to President 
Wilson to use his influence to secure an armistice and to begin 
negotiations for peace. To this the President sent no reply, and 
Constantinople could not afford to wait. General Townshend, 
who had been a prisoner since the fall of Kut, was released, and 
sent to the headquarters of Admiral Sir Somerset Calthorpe, com- 
manding the British naval forces in the ^gean, to ask that nego- 
tiations should be immediately opened for an armistice. Admiral 
Calthorpe stated the conditions on which this would be granted, 
and during the last week of October the Turkish plenipotentiaries 
arrived at Mudros. On the 30th an armistice was signed, and from 
noon on the 31st hostilities ceased. The main terms were the 
opening of the Dardanelles and the Black Sea, the immediate 
repatriation of Allied prisoners, the demobilisation of the Turkish 
Army, the severing of all relations with the Central Powers, and 
the placing of Turkish territory at the disposal of the Allies for 
military purposes.* 

The surrender of Turkey brought to an end the hopes of the 
Teutonic League of using gains in the East to redress the balance 
in the West. It shattered the whole fabric of policy built up labori- 
ously during the past four years between the Baltic and the Indian 
Ocean. It left Germany with no crutch to lean on but her Western 
armies. We turn now to that battlefield where, long before Turkey 
signed the armistice, the fate of those armies had been decreed. 

_ * See Appendix, p. 446. 



CHAPTER XCIX 

THE BREAKING OF THE GERMAN DEFENCES 
September 2^- October 10, 1918 

The German Position on 25th September — The American Attack on the Meuse 
— Haig breaks through Hindenburg Line — The Belgian Advance — -The 
Arpeggio of the Allied Armies — The British in Open Country — The Fall 
of Cambrai. 

On the 25th of September the Germans between the North Sea 
and the Moselle held a position difficult, indeed, but not hopeless. 
They still possessed many of the chief points of vantage in the 
West — the Ypres ring of hills, the Wytschaete-Messines ridge, the 
St. Gobain massif, the main part of the Aisne heights, the uplands 
about Rheims, and a strong line protecting the road down the Meuse 
valley. They had the water-line in front of Douai, and the Sieg- 
fried system still intact, covering Cambrai and St. Quentin ; while 
its extension, the Hunding and Brunehilde zones, defended the 
country between the Oise and the Aisne and the positions in Cham- 
pagne. Their worst anxiety was on behalf of their left, for at all 
costs the Allies must be warded off Mezieres and Longuyon and 
the vital railway of the south. There, accordingly, Ludendorff 
had strengthened his forces, for he believed that the American 
attack at St. Mihiel would be followed by an advance into Lorraine. 
His second main preoccupation was his centre from Douai to St. 
Quentin. He could not afford to lose Cambrai, because it was the 
road and railway junction which supplied the Siegfried zone, and 
he had some cause for nervousness, since in front of it was a gap 
in the water defences. The Siegfried zone itself must be main- 
tained, for behind it lay the great railway from Lille by Valen- 
ciennes and Hirson to Mezieres, on which his position was based. 
If this were breached his whole battle plan would be in ruins. 

361 



362 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Sept. 

Therefore he laboured to keep his left and centre at maximum 
strength, for, in spite of his experiences in August and September, 
he could not conceive the possibility of an assault by the Allies 
on ever>'' section.* 

The dispositions of the opposing forces on the eve of the final 
struggle were these. — The German group commands remained as 
before — Prince Rupprecht on the right, Boehn and the Imperial 
Crown Prince in the centre, and Gallwitz on the left. From the 
north the order of their armies was as follows : the IV., under 
Armin, from the sea to the Lys ; the VI., under Quast, to a point 
north of Arras; the XVII., under Otto von Below, in front of 
Douai and Cambrai ; the II., still under Marwitz, but about to 
pass under Carlowitz, to St. Quentin; the XVIII., under Hutier, 
astride the Oise ; the VII., under Eberhardt, north of the Aisne ; 
the I., under Mudra, north of Rheims; the III., under Einem, in 
Champagne; the V., presently to be under Marwitz, north of 
Verdun ; and, covering Longuyon and Metz, a special detachment, 
under Fuchs. The Allied forces from left to right were : the 
Belgians north of Ypres ; the British Second Army, under Plumer, 
to the Lys ; the new British Fifth Army, under Sir William Bird- 
wood, in front of Lens and Lille ; the British First Army, under 
Home, opposite Douai ; the British Third Army, under Byng, 
before Cambrai ; the British Fourth Army, under Rawlinson, to 
St. Quentin ; the French First Army, under Debeney, to the Oise ; 
the French Tenth Army, under Mangin, on the Ailette and the 
heights of the Aisne ; the French Fifth Army, under Berthelot, 
in front of Rheims ; the French Fourth Army, under Gouraud, in 
Champagne, west of the Argonne ; and the American First Army, 
under Pershing, from the Argonne across the Meuse to a point 
north of Nancy. 

The Allied Commander-in-Chief had compelled Ludendorff to 
conform to his will, and to make his chief concentration within 
the outermost bend of the great salient, leaving much of the rest 
very weak, in spite of all efforts at reinforcements. The German 
High Command was in this dilemma: they had two sections of 
acute importance, Lorraine and the Siegfried zone, and with shrink- 
ing forces both had to be maintained against an opponent with far 
greater strength in guns and men. Defeat in either quarter would 

* Ludendorff 's Memorandum of 14th September (printed in German White 
Book, Vor^eschichle des WaffenstiUstands, issued July 31, 1919) shows that he 
had still considerable hopes of the military position, and was not prepared to 
talk of peace except upon terms advantageous to Germany. 



I9i8] BEGINNING OF THE LAST STAGE 363 

be fatal, but the defences of both were still strong. Ludendorff 
pinned his faith to the seven miles of the Siegfried system and the 
masked and tortuous terrain through which the Meuse flowed to 
Mezieres. 

Foch made his plan cunningly, so as to exploit every weakness 
in the enemy's position. He instructed Pershing to extend the 
left of the American First Army to La Harazee in the Argonne, and 
to be ready with nine divisions in line on the front west of the 
Meuse. He aimed at striking almost simultaneously against each 
of the danger points. Pershing, with Gouraud on his left, would 
attack down the Meuse in the direction of Mezieres, so that if he 
succeeded, the enemy would be forced back towards the Ardennes. 
At the same moment other French armies would press towards 
Laon and Hirson, and the British would attack the Siegfried zone, 
break through it, and cut the main German communications. 
Simultaneously the Belgians and the British left would advance 
in the north, where the enemy was weak, in the direction of Ghent, 
so as to clear the Belgian coast and complicate any retirement. 
The strategy was that of a general pressure on all parts of the 
salient, and the vital elements were the attacks of Pershing and 
Gouraud in the south and of Haig in the centre. For, if the first 
made retreat imperative, and the second destroyed the machinery 
of retreat, a comprehensive disaster must follow. In this scheme 
the Americans and the British were cast for the most difficult roles. 
The course of the first lay through a desperate country, partly 
the wooded upland of the Argonne, where little impression had 
been made on the enemy's defence since the first months of war, 
partly among the blind hollows lying east towards the Meuse. 
There lay the formidable Kriemhilde positions, and there the 
enemy would thicken his troops at the first move. The problem 
of the British was, if possible, more intricate. They had to attack 
in the area where the enemy's defences were already most highly 
organized and his forces were strongest. If the Siegfried zone 
held, the German -mom/ might well recover and a new era of resist- 
ance open. Nor should it be forgotten that Haig's armies had 
borne the heaviest share of the summer fighting, and that every 
division had been sorely tried. Yet the attempt must be made, 
for it was the essential part of the whole strategy, and the measure 
of the difficulties was the measure of the honour in which Foch 
held the fighting quality of his British and American allies. 

It is necessary to emphasize the importance of the task allotted 
to the British forces, for it sets in high relief the courage and insight 



364 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Sept. 

of the British Commander-in-Chief. So difficult seemed the opera- 
tion of breaking at one bound through the Siegfried Line, that the 
British Government endeavoured for some weeks to dissuade Sir 
Douglas Haig from the attempt. Their nervousness was natural, 
but the responsibility thus placed upon their Commander-in-Chief 
might well have dismayed a weaker man. The movement was 
undertaken on Haig's initiative ; he bore the sole burden of it ; 
and therefore to him belongs the full credit of what was destined 
to be one of the decisive actions of the war. He had made Foch's 
strategy his own, and the two men wrought as if with a single 
mind, so that it is hard to say from which came the first origina- 
tion of certain of the details. Foch's earlier plan, for example, 
had been to direct the Americans on Briey; it was Haig who 
advised against eccentric attacks, and urged the advance down 
the Meuse. The latter's judgment was as unerring as his resolu- 
tion was unshakable. The British War Office was fixed in the 
opinion that the war could not end before July 1919 ; but on 
9th September Haig told Lord Milner that the conflict had changed 
its character, and was on the eve of a decision. 

Foch resolved to begin on his right flank, where the enemy 
was waiting for the expected thrust towards Metz, while the main 
American strength had been moved to the left bank of the Meuse. 
There he hoped for a surprise, though he was aware of the strength 
of the Kriemhilde defences. If Pershing could push far enough 
down the Aire he would turn the flank of the whole enemy position 
on the Aisne, against which Gouraud would be pressing from the 
south. The American Commander had three corps in line — from 
left to right. General Bullard's 3rd Corps (33rd, 80th, and 4th 
Divisions), General Cameron's 5th Corps (79th, 37th, and 91st 
Divisions), and General Liggett's 1st Corps (35th, 28th, and 77th 
Divisions) — a rifle strength of some 108,000 men in front line. 
In reserve were the 1st, 3rd, 29th, 32nd, 82nd, and 92nd Divisions. 
On the night of Wednesday the 25th the Americans opened artillery 
fire on the east bank of the Meuse, as if an attack were coming in 
that quarter. Then followed a bombardment of the enemy back 
areas, everywhere between the Suippe and Verdun. At 2.30 on 
the morning of the 26th, in a cold, wet fog, the guns of Gouraud 
and Pershing began the severest kind of "preparation," and at 
5.30, on a front of forty miles, the infantry of the two armies crossed 
the parapets. 

The first rush took Gouraud's six corps of attack through the 
front positions, which had been ceaselessly strengthened ever since 



I9i8] GOURAUD IN CHAMPAGNE 365 

the Champagne battle of September 1915. Places famous in that 
action fell into his hands — Navarin Farm, Tahure and the Buttes 
de Tahure, Souain, and Mesnil. His average advance was some 
three miles for he was operating in most difficult country, that 
series of long, low ridges, each of which was tunnelled and fortified 
to the last degree of elaboration. His attack was a complete 
surprise ; and by the evening he had broken the back of a position 
which Einem had thought impregnable. Pershing had, to begin 
with, the easier task, and his progress was more rapid, for before 
night fell he had put six miles of enemy ground behind him. He 
swept over the Forges brook, and into the region of wooded hills, 
not yet desecrated like those of Verdun. The Americans, fighting 
wnth superb dash and resolution, took Malancourt and Dannevoux, 
Epinonville, Cheppy, and Varennes ; they were held up for a little 
by machine-gun fire from Montfaucon, but before noon next day 
the 79th Division carried the place. In Montfaucon they had won 
the commanding observation point of the whole district, from 
w^hich, in the old battles at Verdun, the fire of the German heavy 
guns had been directed. The Volker line, the advance guard of 
the Kriemhilde position, had been reached and in two places 
pierced. Gallwitz hurried every man he could spare to stop this 
breach, for he argued correctly that Gouraud's advance was a 
containing battle, and that the Americans were the spearhead. 
There was no German general reserv^e, so he had to borrow troops 
where he could from other parts of the front. But it seemed wise 
to borrow them, for Foch was clearly directing his main effort on 
the Meuse. 

Next day the enemy knew more of Foch's mind, which thought 
in terms not of isolated thrusts, but of linked and cumulative actions. 
For that day, Friday, 27th September, Haig struck towards Cam- 
brai. To appreciate the importance of the stroke it is necessary 
to sketch the nature of the Siegfried zone, before which were drawn 
up the armies of Home, Byng, and Rawlinson. Its northern limit 
was the southern end of the water-line which protected Douai. 
North and south of Moeuvres the enemy had the Canal du Nord 
as an extra defence to cover that gap between the water-line and 
the Scheldt Canal, which offered an avenue of approach to Cam- 
brai. But the strongest part of the zone was opposite Rawlin- 
son's front, between St. Quentin and Bantouzelle, where the Scheldt 
Canal formed the outworks of the system. The principal German 
trenches were on the east bank, but on the west bank lay advanced 
posts skilfully sited, so as to deny the attack effective artillery 



366 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Sept. 

positions. The canal gave cover for resting troops and shelter to 
the garrisons of the outpost line during a bombardment. The 
configuration of the whole section was most curious. From Vend- 
huile south to Bellicourt the canal passed through a tunnel 6,000 
yards long, which was connected by shafts with the trenches above. 
North of Vendhuile the canal lay in a deep cutting, the sides of 
which were honeycombed with dug-outs, and the edges studded 
with armoured machine-gun emplacements. From Bellicourt 
south to Bellenglise the cutting became shallow, till at the latter 
place the canal was almost on the ground level, while south of 
Bellenglise it was dry. From Bellicourt southward the enemy 
had two heavily wired trench lines, nearly a mile west of the canal, 
while north of Vendhuile his positions were on the east bank. 
These were, so to speak, the outpost and battle zones of the sys- 
tem ; but it ran back for a distance of from five to seven miles, 
a belt of country containing many subsidiary lines and numerous 
fortified villages, and culminated In what was known as the Beau- 
revoir-Fonsomme line, a double row of trenches analogous to the 
front position. East of that there was open country. 

Halg had selected the southern section between Vendhuile and 
Holnon, held by Rawlinson's Fourth Army, as the main area of 
attack. But there the Siegfried defences were at their strongest, 
and a long "preparation" was necessary. He therefore decided 
to attack first with the First and Third Armies from Vendhuile 
north to the water-line, in order to puzzle the enemy as to the 
quarter In which the chief blow would be delivered, and to enable 
the two armies to get forward so as to simplify Rawlinson's task. 
On the night of the 26th a heavy bombardment opened between 
St. Quentin and the Sensee. The night was very wet, but before 
dawn the clouds departed, leaving clear air and a rain-washed 
sky. At 5.20 a.m. on the 27th, just as light was breaking, Byng 
and Home advanced on a front of thirteen miles, between Gou- 
zeaucourt and Sauchy-Lestree. The dispositions from right to 
left were the 4th, 6th, 17th, and Canadian Corps. The key of the 
problem was the debouchment on a narrow front in the Moeuvres 
area, for the Canal du Nord north of that place was too strong to 
be passed in the face of the enemy. But if the canal could be 
crossed there, the northern sector might be turned by an attack 
fanning out from the bridgehead. This task was entrusted to the 
52nd and 63rd Divisions, and the 4th and 1st Canadians. 

Just at dawn these divisions stormed the canal, and swung 
forward on Gralncourt, Anneux, and Bourlon — the storm centre 



I9i8] HAIG BREAKS THE HINDENBURG LINE 367 

of the first battle of Cambrai — while our engineers built bridges in 
their rear. At Graincourt there was a stubborn fight; but the 
63rd Division took the place by the evening, while the 4th Canadians 
took Bourlon, and the 3rd Canadians Bourlon Wood. On their 
right the 57th and 52nd Divisions were east of Anneux, and close 
upon Fontaine-Notre-Dame. Farther south the Guards and the 
2nd Division made good progress, and the 31st Division took 
Ribecourt and Flesquieres, while on their right the 5th and 42nd 
Divisions had established a flank between Ribecourt and Beau- 
camp. In the left centre the 1st Canadians and the nth Division 
had taken Sains-lez-Marquion, Haynecourt, and Epinoy, and on 
the extreme left the 25th Division was across the canal and moving 
on Palluel. That evening we had taken over 10,000 prisoners and 
200 guns ; we were everywhere across the Canal du Nord and 
were close on the Scheldt Canal south of Cambrai. 

Next day Gouzeaucourt fell, and Marcoing and Fontaine-Notre- 
Dame, and at Marcoing we reached the east bank of the Scheldt 
Canal, while farther north we were in Sailly and Palluel and Auben- 
cheul-au-Bac. Cambrai was now menaced on two sides, and the 
defences of the gap had been destroyed. The great road-and-rail 
junction was out of action, and Douai was also threatened by the 
turning of its water-line on the south. Worse still, the crossing 
of the Canal du Nord by tanks, and the passing of the Scheldt 
Canal at Marcoing, had broken Ludendorff's confidence in his 
outer Siegfried defences. He was now engaged hotly in two vital 
areas, and, having no general reserves, and being unwilling to take 
troops from Rawlinson's front, he could look only to the St. Gobain 
and i\isne sections, and to the already thin lines of Armin and Quast 
in the north. 

That day, 28th September, he found that the cup of his mis- 
fortunes was in nowise full. For at 5.30 in the morning it was 
Armin's turn. A force, commanded by the King of the Belgians, 
made up of his own army under General Gillain, the French Sixth 
Army under Degoutte, and the 19th and 2nd Corps of Plumer's 
Second Army, attacked on a front of twenty miles from south of 
Dixmude to Ploegsteert Wood. In the northern area there was 
a preliminary bombardment of some hours, assisted by British 
ships from the sea ; in Plumer's section of four and a half miles 
south of the Ypres-Zonnebeke road, there was no warning "prep- 
aration." The advance was instantaneously successful. The Bel- 
gians, led by their King, fought as men fight who have much to 
avenge. Armin had no more than five divisions, and could make 



368 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Sept. 

little stand. The Belgians took Zonnebeke and Poelcappelle, and 
cleared Houthulst Forest; while, under Plumer, the 14th, 35th, 
29th, and 9th Divisions, supported by the 41st and 36th, pressed 
far beyond the limits reached in the Third Battle of Ypres, and 
took Zandvoorde and Becelaere. On their right, the 31st, 30th, 
and 34th Divisions captured Wytschaete, and reached the crest of 
the ridge. Next day the Belgians beat off all counter-attacks and 
went through the second enemy position, carrying Dixmude, Pass- 
chendaele, Moorslede, and part of Westroosebeke, and reached the 
Roulers-Menin road ; while Plumer cleared Ploegsteert Wood, 
took Messines, and held all the left bank of the Lys from Comines 
westward. Over 10,000 prisoners and some hundreds of guns 
remained in the Allied hands. 

Ludendorff's perplexities had thickened. Gouraud was still 
pressing on, and was now some two miles north of Somme-py and 
within half a mile of Monthois, while Pershing was close onBrieuUes, 
and had made the Argonne a precarious German salient. The 
Americans found their task laborious in that confused countryside, 
and their difficulties were increased by their ardour, for at first 
they were not always careful to clear the ground behind them — 
that nettoyage, the need of which their allies had learned from 
bitter experience. Also, as was natural with a new army, some 
of the divisional staff and transport work was scarcely adequate 
at the start to the fighting quality of their men. The centre divi- 
sions especially had suffered heavily, as they neared the German 
main line of resistance, and were relieved by the ist, 3rd, and 
32nd Divisions from reserves. Pershing was only twenty miles 
from Sedan, but it looked as if the gate of the Meuse might be 
harder to unlock than Foch had imagined. But Cambrai and 
Douai were in dire peril, and there was imminent risk of the whole 
German front being outflanked on the north by King Albert's 
advance. Ludendorff dared not thin the St. Quentin section where 
Rawlinson was waiting, and his hope of reinforcements from Eber- 
hardt and Mudra had gone. For, on the 28th, the day of the 
Belgian attack, Mangin and Berthelot had struck between the 
Ailette and the Vesle. 

The new attack began modestly, but by the second day it had 
reached a depth of three and a half miles, Italian divisions under 
General Albricci fighting gallantly in the centre. By the 30th 
Mangin's front ran from Bourg by Braye-en-Laonnois to Filain, 
and then along the south bank of the Ailette to a point west of 
Anizy-le-Ch^teau, while Berthelot to the east had occupied the 



I9i8] THE CROSSING OF THE SCHELDT CANAL 369 

whole ground between the Vesle and the Aisne. That day, too, 
Gouraud had carried, after a hard fight, the hill called Mont Cuvelet, 
which commanded the Aisne valley as far as Vouziers. On 
the 28th no part of the German front was disengaged, except the 
Siegfried zone from Vendhuile southward. There and there only 
could reinforcements be found to support the cracking lines in 
Flanders, on the Aisne, and on the Meuse. But on the 29th that 
hope vanished, for Haig delivered his supreme attack on the 
German defences. He struck at the strongest part, and it crumbled 
before him. 

For two days the guns of the Fourth Army had not been silent ; 
the enemy's garrisons were forced into tunnels and deep dug-outs, 
and the bringing up of food and ammunition was made all but 
impossible.* The Germans were therefore in a state of confusion 
and fatigue when Haig struck at ten minutes to six on the morning 
of Sunday the 29th. The area of attack was from Marcoing to 
St. Quentin. The right wing of the Third Army, the 5th and 4th 
Corps, advanced between Marcoing and Vendhuile, and the left 
wing of Debeney's French First Army between St. Quentin and 
Cerizy. But the main thrust was that of the centre, Rawlinson's 
Fourth Army, on the twelve miles between Holnon and Vendhuile, 
its dispositions being, from left to right, the 3rd Corps, the 2nd 
American Corps (Major-General G. W. Read), and the 9th Corps. 
The 3rd Corps had the section of the Scheldt Canal where the 
cutting was deep ; the Americans had the tunnel area ; and the 
9th Corps had that part of the canal where it approached ground 
level and curved eastward. 

This action was one of the greatest of the campaign, whether 
we regard the difificulties to be faced or the strategic value of the 
gains. Ludendorff was fighting for his last hope, and he had 
warned his men accordingly. One captured order reminded his 
troops that "our present position is our winter position." An- 
other ran thus : "There can be no question of going back a single 
step farther. We must show the British, French, and Americans 
that any further attacks on the Siegfried Line will be utterly broken, 
and that that line is an impregnable rampart, with the result that 
the Entente Powers will condescend to consider the terms of peace 
which it is absolutely necessary for us to have before we can end 
the war." Germany was already busy with peace proposals, and 

* In this bombardment we returned to our old methods, because there was 
no longer an opportunity of obtaining a surprise, and tanks, except in one or 
two sectors, could not be used to prepare the way for the infantry. 



370 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

she had nothing to bargain with except those defences in the 
West. 

The key of the position was the angle of the Scheldt Canal 
where it turned east to Le Tronquoy and held the village of Bellen- 
glise in its bend, for if the canal were forced there, the defences on 
either side would be turned. The work was entrusted to the men 
of the 46th (North Midland) Division, which had had a long and 
brilliant record in the war. Theirs was an amazing performance. 
The canal before them was some 50 or 60 feet wide, sometimes as 
much as 10 feet deep in water, sometimes a mere trickle. It was 
a morning of thick fog when behind the tornado of the barrage 
the Midlanders, carrying life-belts and mats and rafts, advanced 
to the attack. Some parts of the canal were impossible, so the 
crossing had to be made on a narrow front. Swimming or wading, 
and in some cases using the foot-bridges which the enemy had left 
undestroyed, they passed the canal west and north of Bellenglise, 
swarmed up the farther wall, and took the German trenches on the 
far bank. Then, fanning out, they attacked in rear the positions 
to the south, capturing many batteries still in action. That day 
this one division took over 4,000 prisoners and 70 guns. 

South of the Midlanders the 1st and 6th Divisions pressed along 
the west part of the canal bend, over the Thorigny ridge, and 
reached the west end of the small tunnel at Le Tronquoy. There 
they found on their left the 32nd Division, which had passed 
through the 46th and had taken the villages of Lehaucourt and 
Magny-la-Fosse on the east bank. Meantime, on the Midlanders' 
left, the American 2nd Corps had done nobly in the tunnel section 
between Bellenglise and Bony. On its right its 30th Division 
(Major-General Lewis), men from Tennessee and the Carolinas, 
broke through the main Siegfried defences and took Bellicourt and 
Nauroy. North of them its 27th Division (Major-General O'Ryan) 
reached Bony, and fought a desperate fight for the possession of 
that village. All day the American front was hotly engaged, 
bodies of the enemy holding out at the strong points of the in- 
tricate system ; but by the evening they had cleared the area with 
the help of the 5th and 3rd Australian Divisions, who came up in 
support. On Rawlinson's left, the 12th and i8th Divisions of the 
3rd Corps advanced around Vendhuile. 

The Third Army to the north made good progress. The New 
Zealanders cleared Welsh Ridge and took La Vacquerie ; the 62nd 
Division took Masni^res ; and the 63rd, on their left, crossed the 
Scheldt Canal east of Cantaing, and reached the southern skirts 



I9i8] THE BRITISH IN OPEN COUNTRY 371 

of Cambrai. Farther north the Canadian Corps took St. Olle 
and Sancourt, and reached the environs of Cambrai from the 
north-west. Meantime, on the right of the battle, Debeney 
took Cerizy and Urvillers and crossed the St. Quentin-La F^re 
road. Already both Cambrai and St. Quentin were gravely out- 
flanked. 

It had been foggy all day, and in the night the wind rose and the 
rain fell. On Monday the 30th it was still cloudy. That day the 
Fourth Army pressed through the gap in the main Siegfried de- 
fences. The 1st and 32nd Divisions took Thorigny and Le Tron- 
quoy and the Le Tronquoy tunnel, while the enemy evacuated 
Villers-Guislain and Gonnelieu, and withdrew behind the Scheldt 
Canal. The position now was that we were close up to the west 
bank of the canal between Vendhuile and Cr^vecoeur ; north of 
Cr^vecoeur, in the great bend of Cambrai, we were pn the east bank ; 
and from Vendhuile to Le Tronquoy we were well to the east of 
the canal and through the chief Siegfried trenches. But at Cam- 
brai the German resistance had stifTened. The Canadians were in 
the suburbs of Proville and Tilloy, but they could only advance 
slowly. 

On Tuesday, 1st October, Rawlinson again attacked in con- 
junction with Debeney. The latter had hitherto fought chiefly 
with his right wing. He now flung forward his left, broke 
through the Siegfried Line, and took Gauchy, while his vanguard 
entered St. Quentin and held the city as far as the canal, though 
the enemy still resisted in the eastern suburbs. Byng also ad- 
vanced, and his right, the 3rd and New Zealand Divisions, took 
Cr^vecceur and Rumilly. The Canadians were still battling fiercely 
in the northern and western skirts of Cambrai. In five days eleven 
German divisions had been brought up against them, for if they 
advanced another half-mile Cambrai must fall. Rawlinson took 
Levergies with the 32nd Division ; and the Australian Corps cap- 
tured Joncourt, Estrees, and Bony, and pushed their line well to 
the north and east of this last village. The record of that corps 
was one which it would be hard to parallel. They had been fight- 
ing continuously since July, and had advanced in a straight line 
from Villers-Bretonneux, till now they were half-way to the French 
frontier. Whatever new task was laid upon them they performed 
it with an apparently effortless mastery. 

The greatest battle in history was now approaching its climax. 
The whole 250.miles of front from the Meuse to the sea were ablaze. 



372 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT Vv^AR [Oct. 

The Belgians and Plumer were threatening Lille from the north. 
Cambrai was outflanked, St. Quentin had fallen, and the larger 
part of the main Siegfried Line had gone, while the Allies were 
battling through the fortified zone to the last defences of Beau- 
revoir. Mangin had regained the west part of the Chemin des 
Dames, and Berthelot had reached the Aisne and cleared all the 
land between that river and the Vesle. Gouraud was through the 
first position in Champagne, and close on the final Brunehilde Line. 
Pershing, though his advance was naturally slower, was feeling 
for a blow at the most deadly spot of all. Germany's man-power 
was quickly shrinking, and already, owing to the disbandment of 
units, she had only 183 divisions in the West, most of them far 
below strength. Wounded men coming out of hospital were 
returned direct to the front without passing through the field depots. 
Her home depots were empty, and her only reserves, apart from 
her 1920 class, were returned prisoners of war from Russia, who 
were mutinous and incompetent. From 15th July till the last day 
of September the Allies in the West had taken more than a quarter 
of a million prisoners, over 3,600 guns, and 25,000 machine guns. 
It needed but one effort more to break t,hrough the last defences, 
and leave the enemy, baffled and depicted, to meet the onset of 
the Allies in a war of movement. 

Ludendorff could not have withdrawn even had he so desired. 
He fell back, indeed, in the one moderately quiet section of the 
front, that of the British Fifth Army, between the Lys and Vimy. 
On 2nd October there was a general retirement between Lens 
and Armentieres, and Birdwood occupied Douvrin, La Bass^e, 
Lorgies, and Aubers. By the night of 4th October he was on 
the line Fresnoy-Sallaumines-Vendin le Vieil-Wavrin-Erquing- 
hem-Houplines. On Thursday, 3rd October, Rawlinson attacked 
on the eight-mile front between Sequehart and Le Catelet. The 
32nd Division took Sequehart, the 50th Gouy and Le Catelet, and 
the 2nd Australians broke through the northern part of the Beau- 
revoir-Fonsomme line, the last works of the Siegfried zone. We 
were now peeping into open country. That day the British were 
again in Armentieres, and Lens was clear of the enemy. On the 
5th the villages of Montbrehain and Beaurevoir were captured. 
This compelled the enemy to leave the upland, called the La 
Terriere plateau, in the bend of the Scheldt Canal betw^een Le 
Catelet and Crevecoeur ; and his withdrawal enabled Byng's 
right, which was still on the west bank between Crevecoeur and 
Vendhuile, to cross and come into line with Rawlinson. 



I9i8] THE AIOVEiMENT OF OCTOBER EIGHTH 373 

The position by 7th October was therefore as follows : Haig 
had crossed the Canal du Nord and the Scheldt Canal ; he had 
broken through all the main Siegfried Line and was pressing upon 
the last defences, in one section being actually beyond them. 
The time was therefore ripe for a great movement on the broadest 
possible front which should destroy the whole zone. For, in the 
words of the official dispatch, "nothing but the natural obstacles 
of a wooded and well-watered country lay between our armies 
and Maubeuge." In the action, which began on 26th September, 
thirty British and two American infantry divisions and one British 
cavalry division had engaged and defeated thirty-nine German 
divisions, and taken over 36,000 prisoners and 380 guns. 

Nor was the prospect brighter for the enemy on other parts 
of the front. Pershing had begun on the 4th the second stage of 
his battle between Brieulles on the Meuse and Apremont on the 
Aire — ten days of some of the fiercest and most difficult fighting 
in the annals of war. The American 2nd Division with Gouraud 
took on the 5th the key position of Blanc Mont in Champagne, 
and compelled a withdrawal of the German line. Next day the 
enemy began to retire on the whole front between Rheims and 
the Argonne, and by the 6th had reached everywhere his final 
positions on the northern banks of the Aisne and the Suippe. 
On the 6th Gouraud crossed the Aisne at several points — an 
achievement of supreme importance, since it turned all the German 
positions on the Rheims heights and compelled an extensive 
retreat. With these positions gone the St. Gobain massif and Laon 
itself were in acute danger. The Belgian advance in the Ypres 
sector continued steadily but slowly, for the nature of the ground 
greatly complicated the supply problem ; indeed, this difficulty 
was only surmounted by dropping food and ammunition for the 
advanced troops from airplane squadrons. Meantime, Debeney 
at St. Quentin was now four miles east of the canal. If Pershing 
could get forward in time there was every chance of the retreat 
becoming a rout. 

The next great movement was begun early on Tuesday, 8th 
October, by Haig. It was a wild, wet autumn morning when 
Byng at 4.30, and Rawlinson at 5.10, attacked on a 17-mile front, 
from south of Cambrai to Sequehart, while Debeney extended the 
battle four miles farther south. The enemy resisted desperately, 
but no gallantry had power to stay the rush of the Allied infantry 
and the deadly penetration of their tanks. The whole Siegfried 
zone disappeared in a cataclysm. On the right the American 30th 



374 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

Division took Brancourt and Fremont; and, following the front 
northward, the British 66th and 25th Divisions captured Serain ; 
the 38th, Villers-Outreaux and Malincourt ; the New Zealanders, 
Lesdain and Esnes ; the 3rd, 2nd, and 63rd, Seranvillers, Foren- 
ville, and Niergnies ; while, on Byng's extreme left, the 57th Di- 
vision forced its way forward in the southern part of Cambrai, 
which the Germans had previously set on fire. By the evening 
Haig and Debeney had advanced between three and four miles, 
and the Siegfried zone was no more. The enemy was falling back 
to the Gise and the Selle, and for a moment his organization had 
been utterly broken. Every road converging upon Le Cateau 
was blocked with transport and troops, and our cavalry were 
galloping eastward to confuse the retreat. On that day we took 
over 10,000 prisoners and nearly 200 guns. 

During the night the Canadians Corps forced its way at last 
into Cambrai from the north, and joined hands with the 57th 
Division in its streets. Next day, Wednesday the 9th, Byng and 
Rawlinson again advanced and pressed the retirement. Cambrai 
was occupied, and the Canadians pushed three miles east of the 
town. Bohain was in our hands, Caudry was outflanked, and 
our advance guards were within two miles of Le Cateau, the old 
battlefield where, on August 26, 1914, Smith-Dorrien and the 
2nd Corps had saved the British retreat. All day our cavalry had 
been hustling the enemy and cutting off his rearguards. By the 
loth the Germans had found a temporary lodgment on the line 
of the little river Selle, and Haig's front ran from Riquerval Wood 
along the west bank to Viesly, and thence by St. Hilaire and 
Avesnes to the Scheldt at Thun St. Martin. Debeney, in the mean- 
time, had pressed east and south-east of St. Quentin, and held the 
west bank of the Oise-Sambre Canal as far north as Bernot. The 
lateral railway from St. Quentin by Busigny to Cambrai was 
wholly in our hands. 

Simultaneously with this main action vital progress was made 
on other parts of the front. On the 8th Gouraud's right was two 
miles north of the Aisne. Pershing, in order to clear his right 
flank for a further advance, attacked on the east bank of the 
Meuse. His 33rd Division crossed the river from the west and, in 
conjunction with the French i8th and 26th Divisions, seized the 
triangle of hill between the towns of Brieullcs, Ornes, and Regne- 
ville. By the loth he had cleared that bank as far as Sivry, while 
his left and centre were able to advance and seize the Grand-Pre 
defile, through which ran a lateral railway that for some days had 



THE AMERICAN CAMPAIGN ON THE MEUSE. 

{.Fating f,. S74.) 




'1 



i?**!; 



3 3U3IVS •■'■■>■" ^^O »/^n; 



HAOffl 



?^ .\ ^s 



I9i8] "AN EXAMPLE OF MILITARY ART" 375 

been denied to the enemy.* In this advance the 1st Division 
showed the utmost fortitude and gallantry, and in its ten days' 
battle lost over 9,000 men. Gouraud took Challerange, and by 
the nth Mangin and Guillaumat (who had now replaced Berthelot) 
had occupied the whole of the Chemin des Dames. 

The battle of 8th to loth October may be reckoned the deter- 
mining action in the campaign. Consider what had happened 
in the fifteen days since the 26th of September. Foch had played 
on the whole front a crescendo of deadly music. First came the 
attack of Pershing and Gouraud ; the next day Haig broke through 
the main defences of Cambrai ; next day Plumer and the Belgians 
were through the Ypres front, and Mangin and Berthelot were 
advancing between the Ailette and the Aisne ; next day Haig 
destroyed all but the last lines of the Siegfried zone ; a few days 
later Birdwood was pressing the enemy retreat between Arras 
and the Lys ; on 4th October Gouraud reached the Aisne ; on 
the 8th the British and Americans swept through the Siegfried 
zone to open country, and Cambrai fell ; on the same day, in the 
south, Pershing and Gouraud, Mangin and Berthelot, were ad- 
vancing in a linked movement. The death-blow had been struck 
to the remnant of Germany's military power. Lille must go, 
and Laon and the St. Gobain heights were as good as lost. The 
whole southern Hunding and Brunehilde positions, where they had 
not been already broken, were outflanked. Foch's conception, 
indeed, had not been wholly realized. He had set Gouraud and 
Pershing too hard a task, and they were not far enough forward 
when the Siegfried zone fell to pin the enemy to the trap which 
had been prepared. Nevertheless, on 8th October Germany was 
finally beaten. 

The main attack had been that of the British and Americans 
under Haig, and the battle of October 8-10 was rightly described 
by Foch and the French Staff as "a classic example of the military 
art." It had no defect either in plan or execution. The enemy 
was fairly and squarely defeated in a field action. He was defeated, 
but before that date he was already crumbling; for though, on 
paper, twenty divisions of British infantry, one of American in- 
fantry, and two of British cavalry, routed twenty-four German 
divisions, an immense preponderance in strength was on the Allied 
side. The German units were depleted, weary, and disheartened, 

* On 9th October Pershing handed over the direct command of his First 
Army to Lieut. -General Liggett, and constituted the American Second Army 
east of the Meuse under Lieut.-General Bullard. 



376 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

and their organization was cracking. Ludendorff's strategic posi- 
tion was so desperate that no local stand could save him. There 
was talk of a German retreat to the Meuse, but it was an idle dream. 
Even had it been possible to conduct such a retirement without 
crippling losses, with the Allies pressing on in every quarter, the 
Meuse was no line to abide on. Had Foch's plan succeeded in its 
entirety, by loth October Ludendorff would have been brought to 
the eve of surrender. But the day of doom was merely postponed. 
Long before her broken divisions could reach the Meuse Germany 
would be on her knees. 



CHAPTER C 

THE LAST PHASE IN THE WEST 
September 2,0- November 4, 1918 

Prince Max of Baden appointed Imperial Chancellor — Ludendorff insists on 
Peace Negotiations — Correspondence with President Wilson — Haig forces 
the Line of the Selle — Fall of Le Cateau — The Battle of the Rivers — Hard 
Fighting of the Americans — A " Democratic " Government in Germany — 
Resignation of Ludendorff — Italian Attack on Piave Front — Battle of 
Vittorio-Veneto — Capitulation of Austria — Fall of the Hapsburgs. 



The destruction of the Siegfried defences broke the nerve of the 
German High Command, and when Ludendorff began to waver 
it was inevitable that the civiHan statesmen should follow suit. 
The Western offensive had collapsed, and even a Western defensive 
was becoming doubtful. Bulgaria and Turkey were on the verge 
of utter defeat. Austria was pleading for peace at any price. 
The German people were dumbly determined that somehow or 
other the war should end before the winter. If the army was to 
be saved, by hook or by crook a way must be found to suspend 
hostilities, for every day made it clearer that retreat to a line of 
assured defence was beyond its power. Accordingly the High 
Command bade the politicians quicken the pace of their negotia- 
tions, and, discarding their old line of argument, beg unequivocally 
for an armistice. They were well aware that such a step would go 
far to wreck the moral of the troops, but they had no other choice. 
First, however, a Government must be set up which might find 
favour in the eyes of their enemies, for Hertling and Hintze were 
fatally compromised. On 30th September the Emperor accepted 
the resignation of the Imperial Chancellor and the Foreign Sec- 
retary, and announced his desire that "the German people shall 
co-operate more effectively than hitherto in deciding the fate of 
the Fatherland." At the same time all the Secretaries of State 
placed their portfolios at the disposal of the Crown. The other 

377 



378 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

posts mattered less at the moment, but a new Chancellor was 
urgently required, for with him it would lie to open negotiations 
with the enemy Powers. The Emperor's choice fell upon Prince 
Maximilian of Baden, the cousin of the reigning Grand Duke, 
and the President of the Upper House of the Baden legislature. 
He was a man of fifty-one, a student of popular philosophy, and 
an amateur of liberal thought. His personal charm was consider- 
able, he spoke fluently and well, and he had earned some reputation 
by his efforts on behalf of the Allied prisoners of war. He was 
fond of expounding a democracy of his own, which he sedulously 
distinguished from the molluscous type in vogue — as he said — 
in America, as well as from the class tyranny of Bolshevism. For 
the statesmen of the Allies — notably Lord Grey of Fallodon and 
Mr. Wilson — he professed small respect ; but he preached a diluted 
version of their doctrines. For example, in December 1917 he 
warned the Baden Upper House that the German people were * * too 
apt to maintain an indolent attitude of acquiescence towards the 
authorities without any longing to assume personal responsibility 
for the cause of the Fatherland;" and concluded: "The sword 
cannot break down the moral opposition that has reared itself 
against us. If the world is to be reconciled to the greatness of our 
power, it must feel that behind our power stands a world conscience." 
The new Chancellor had therefore a fair record for amiable if 
somewhat vague liberalism. He lost no time in setting to work 
on the task for which he had been appointed, for Army Head- 
quarters were urging that any hour might see a break-through, 
and pleading that negotiations should be instituted while they had 
still some semblance of an army. On the evening of 28th Sep- 
tember Ludendorff had come to the conclusion that all was lost. 
Next day he and Hindenburg met the Emperor at Spa, and the 
immediate result — of which Ludendorff was not informed — was the 
fall of Hertling and the declaration cited above about parliamentary 
government. On ist October Hindenburg informed the civilian 
statesmen, who asked for a little delay, that he insisted on the peace 
offer being made not later than next morning, and the Frelherr von 
der Bussche, whom Ludendorff had sent to Berlin, drew such a 
tragic picture of the military position that Payer and Prince Max 
were convinced. The Allied tanks, he said, and the German 
weakness in reserves had combined to bring about the debacle* 

* Ludendorff's story of these events will be found in My War Memories 
(Eng. trans.), II., p. 722, etc. The documents are printed more fully in the 
ofScial White Book, Vorgeschichte des WaffensiiUstands, 191 9. 



I9i8] PRINCE MAX OF BADEN CHANCELLOR 379 

On 3rd October Hindenburg repeated his demands more peremp- 
torily ; next day Prince Max became Chancellor, and on 5th October 
sent to President Wilson a Note (the draft of which had been 
prepared by LudendorfT) asking him to take in hand the restoration 
of peace, and to invite the Allies to send plenipotentiaries to open 
negotiations. He announced that Germany accepted the Presi- 
dent's proposals set forth in his message to Congress of January 8, 
1918 (the famous "Fourteen Points"), and in his later pronounce- 
ments, as a basis for the discussion of peace terms. In order to 
prevent further bloodshed he asked for the conclusion of an im- 
mediate armistice on land and water and in the air. That same 
day the Government of Vienna dispatched a message to Washington 
with the same purport. 

These appeals marked a notable step in German policy, for 
they specifically accepted as their basis a speech which President 
Wilson had made in New York on 27th September on the eve of 
the opening of the fourth great American war loan. In that speech 
he had declared that the price of peace was "impartial justice in 
every item of the settlement, no matter whose interest is crossed," 
and had developed this thesis in five particulars.* Germany may 
well have believed that these principles would be unacceptable to 
certain classes among her opponents, especially in France, and 
hoped thereby to drive a wedge into the alliance. But Mr. Wilson 
had also dealt faithfully with the Governments of the Central 
Powers. "They have convinced us that they are without honour, 
and do not intend justice. They observe no covenants, accept 
no principle but force and their own interest. We cannot 'come 
to terms' wath them. They have made it impossible. The 
German people must by this time be fully aware that we cannot 
accept the word of those who forced this war upon us. We do not 

*First, the impartial justice meted out must involve no discrimination be- 
tween those to whom we wish to be just and those to whom we do not wish to be 
just. It must be a justice which plays no favourites and knows no standard 
but the equal rights of the several peoples concerned. 

Second, no special or separate interest of any single nation or any group of 
nations can be made the basis of any part of the settlement which is not con- 
sistent with the common interest of all. 

Third, there can be no leagues or alliances or special covenants and under- 
standings within the general and common family of the League of Nations. 

Fourth, and more specifically, there can be no special, selfish economic com- 
binations within the League, and no employment of any form of economic 
boycott or exclusion, except as the power of economic penalty, by exclusion 
from the markets of the world, may be vested in the League of Nations itself 
as a means of discipline and control. 

Fijth, all international agreements and treaties of every kind must be made 
known in their entirety to the rest of the world. 



380 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

think the same thoughts or speak the same language of agreement." 
Prince Max's acceptance of the speech of 27th September involved, 
therefore, a repudiation of his predecessors. 

That day, 5th October, in the Reichstag, he elaborated his 
policy. He stood, he said, on the ground of Germany's reply to 
the Pope's Note of August i, 1917, and of the Reichstag resolution 
of 19th July in the same year. He was an enthusiast for a League 
of Nations on the basis of equal rights for all, both weak and 
strong. He advocated the complete restoration of Belgium, and 
hoped that an understanding could be reached as to an indemnity. 
He would not permit the Russian treaties to stand in the way of 
a settlement. Finally he declared that in selecting the members 
of the new Government he had selected only those who stood 
"on the basis of a just peace, regardless of the war situation," 
and who had "openly declared this to be their standpoint at the 
time when we stood at the height of our military successes." 
Among such could not be reckoned Prince Max himself, for in the 
preceding February, on the eve of the great Western attack, he 
had written a letter to Prince Alexander of Hohenlohe, in which 
this striking passage occurred : "As I reject parliamentary in- 
stitutions for both Germany and Baden, 1 had to tell the German 
and the Baden people that I understand their need, but that I do 
not believe such institutions would bring them any help. As 
regards the question of peace, my line is exactly the same. Even 
I naturally wish to make as much as possible out of our successes. 
In contrast to the so-called Peace Resolution * (the hateful child 
of fright and the Berlin dog days), I want to get as much in the 
way of indemnities as we can in any shape or form, so that the end 
of the war will not leave us impoverished. On this point I do not 
quite agree with you. I still think that it is not necessary to say 
more about Belgium than has been said already. The enemy 
know enough already, and Belgium is the only commodity we have 
to barter with in dealing with an enemy as cunning and wide- 
awake as England." The publication of this letter did not im- 
prove Prince Max's prestige. The Whig aristocrat is an ancient 
type, and his wavering impulses and intermittent flirtations with 
democracy have made sport for the cynic in every age. 

On 8th October Mr. Wilson replied. In the first place, he 

asked the Imperial Chancellor what precisely he meant. Did 

Germany accept the terms he had laid dov/n in his speeches, and 

was her object in entering upon discussions merely to decide the 

* The Reichstag resolution of July 19, 19 17. 



I9i8] MR. WILSON'S FINAL NOTE 381 

practical details of their application? In the second place, he 
announced that America could not propose to her Allies a cessation 
of hostilities so long as the armies of the Central Powers were upon 
Allied soil. As a guarantee of good faith there must first be with- 
drawal from invaded territory. In the third place, he asked if 
Prince Max spoke for the constituted authorities of the Empire 
who had so far conducted the war. 

Germany made haste to answer, for by 12th October, the date 
of the reply, the last remnants of the Siegfried zone had gone, and 
Gouraud and Pershing had made dangerous progress toward 
Mezieres. To President Wilson's first and third questions the 
answer was yes, on the understanding that the Governments of 
America's allies also accepted the President's principles. As 
for the second, Germany and Austria were willing to evacuate 
invaded territory as a preliminary to an armistice, and suggested 
a mixed commission to make the necessary arrangements. Small 
wonder that Germany assented. To get her troops back intact 
to her frontier was her dearest wish. She was in truth offering 
nothing and asking everything. Evacuation by consent would 
no doubt mean that the French and Belgian towns still in her 
power would suffer no further destruction ; but it was unlikely, 
with the shadow of defeat hanging over her, that she would persist 
in such destruction and so increase the indemnities to be exacted 
from her. It would mean, on the other hand, the immunity of her 
armies from a besetting danger, for Ludendorff was engaged in an 
impossible task. Her reply opened the eyes of the most ingenuous 
among the Allies to the snare spread before them. Peace negotia- 
tions were impossible without an armistice, for otherwise the 
currency of negotiations would be changing from day to day; 
but an armistice such as she suggested would rob Foch of that 
military advantage which he had so laboriously won. There was 
nothing to prevent Germany, once safe inside her frontiers, from 
breaking off negotiations and instituting war on a new plan. It 
was clear that if an armistice came it must be one which was 
equivalent to surrender. 

On 14th October Mr. Wilson made his reply, and there was 
no dubiety about the terms. Events of some significance had 
happened within the past days. On the morning of loth October 
the Irish mail boat had been torpedoed, with the loss of nearly 
500 lives. On 14th October the report of a British committee 
on the treatment by Germany of prisoners taken in the spring 
of 19 18 was published, recording certain ugly cases of callousness 



382 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

and brutality. The Allies were not in the mood to be tender with 
their failing enemy. The President told Prince Max that no 
armistice could be considered while Germany continued her illegal 
and inhuman practices. He pointed out that one of his principal 
terms had been the destruction of every arbitrary Power which 
could disturb the peace of the world ; the power which had hitherto 
controlled Germany was of this type : what guarantees were there 
that it had been changed? "It is indispensable that the Govern- 
ments associated against Germany should know beyond a perad- 
venture with whom they have been dealing." Most important of 
all, he clinched in memorable words the question of an armistice, 
and destroyed Germany's last hope on that score. 

" It must be clearly understood that the process of evacuation and the 
conditions of an armistice are matters which must be left to the judgment 
and advice of the military advisers of the Government of the United States 
and the Allied Governments, and the President feels it his duty to say that 
no arrangement can be accepted by the Government of the United States 
which does not provide absolutely satisfactory safeguards and guarantees 
of the maintenance of the present military supremacy of the armies of the 
United States and of the Allies in the field." * 

This was final. Foch and Haig, Petain and Pershing, were not 
likely to fling away the predominance which was now assured 
to them.* 



II 

The history of events runs now in two parallel streams, one 
of diplomacy and one of war. We turn to the campaign in the 
field. 

By the evening of loth October Haig was in the western skirts 
of Le Cateau, and our troops held the very slopes where in August 
1914 Smith-Dorrien had fought his great battle against odds, 
and bluffed Kluck at a moment when that general had victory 
in his hands. Pershing and Gouraud were threatening the southern 

* On 15th October President Wilson informed Austria that the tenth of his 
original points must be modified, in view of the recognition by the U.SA. of 
the Czecho-Slovaks as a de facto belligerent Government, and of the national 
aspirations of the Southern Slavs. "The President is no longer at liberty to 
accept a mere ' autonomy ' of these peoples as a basis of peace, but is obliged 
to insist that they, and not he, shall be the judge of what action on the part of 
the Austro-Hungarian Government will satisfy their aspirations." 



I9i8] THE ADVANCE IN FLANDERS 383 

section of the vital lateral railway ; Lille was in danger of envelop- 
ment ; the two great salients — between the Lys and the Sommc, 
and between the Sclle and the Argonne — were becoming daily 
more precarious. Ludendorff had no further thought of holding 
what for two years he had regarded as his key positions — Lille 
and the St. Gobain massif — for the other keys, such as Cambrai 
and St. Quentin, had gone. His one object was to protect the 
railway Lille-Valenciennes-Hirson— Mezieres long enough to 
ensure an orderly withdrawal ; for if it fell too soon, large 
parts of his intricate front would be cut ofT. Accordingly he ex- 
pedited the general retirement between the sea and the Mcuse, 
and massed his chief resistance in the sections where the railway 
was most directly threatened — against Pershing and Gouraud in 
the south, and against Rawlinson, Byng, and Home in the 
centre. 

The Selle is a little stream which runs from the hilly ground 
around Bohain and Busigny northwards by Le Gateau and Solesmes 
to join the Scheldt. On its east bank the enemy had taken up 
position, and Haig's first business was to master the river line. 
By the 13th he had reached the Selle as far north as Haspres, and 
held strong bridgeheads on the east bank. Meantime Home's 
left and Birdwood's right had been closing in on Douai from 
north and south. On the 12th the western side of the Sensee 
Canal between Arleux and Corbehem had been cleared, and the 
outskirts of Douai reached ; and east of Lens we were in Mon- 
tigny and Annay. On the 17th Douai was evacuated by the 
enemy. 

The time had come for a forward movement in the north, 
where the difficulties of the countryside compelled long delays for 
the reorganization of trafific routes before each stage of the ad- 
vance. At 5.35 on the morning of Monday, 14th October, King Al- 
bert attacked on the whole front between Dixmude and Comines on 
the Lys, with the Belgians on his left ; the French, under Degoutte, 
and further Belgian troops in the centre ; and the British Second 
Army, under Plumer, on the right, between the Menin-Roulers 
road and the Lys. In spite of the difficulties of the Flanders 
autumn, the Allies moved fast, for they were beyond the area which 
had been tortured by four years of incessant war. The British 
loth and 19th Corps pushed forward to the heights overlooking 
Menin and Wervicq ; the 2nd Corps took Moorseele ; the French 
surrounded Roulers, and the Belgians took Iseghem and Corte- 
marck. Next day Menin and Wervicq fell, and Thourout was 



384 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

surrounded. By the i6th Plumer held the north bank of the Lys 
from FreUnghien to Harlebeke, and had forced a passage at many 
points, while the French and the Belgians to the north had advanced 
eighteen miles since the morning of the 14th. Armin had no choice 
but to retreat. By the evening of the i6th the Allied front ran 
from the Lys at Harlebeke by Pitthem and the western skirts of 
Bruges to the neighbourhood of Ostend. Next day the British 
Navy had arranged to descend upon Ostend, but when Sir Roger 
Keyes arrived he found the place empty, and the enemy fled. 
Three days later the advance guards of the Allies were on the 
Dutch frontier. This was the end of the use of Belgium for 
German submarines and aircraft, and by the work of these six 
days Germany's sea-base had been flung back 300 miles to the 
Weser. 

King Albert's advance had made Lille untenable. With 
Plumer at Harlebeke and Home at Douai its defence was out- 
flanked, and Quast fell back between the Lys and the Sensee, 
with Birdwood's Fifth Army at his heels. On the 15th we forced 
the Haute Deule Canal on a wide front north of Pont-a-Vendin. 
Early on the morning of Thursday, the 17th, our airmen reported 
that the enemy was retiring from Lille, and had sent out some 
thousands of civilians towards our lines. At noon a patrol of 
the Liverpools entered the city, to be received with frenzied joy 
by the inhabitants ; and that night divisions of the British 8th 
and nth Corps had reached the outskirts. Next day Lille was 
occupied by our troops, and the 15th Corps pressed on to the east, 
taking Roubaix and Tourcoing. The capital of the north-east 
was restored to France, and its statue in the Place de la Concorde 
could once again be garlanded with flowers. 

The progress of that week was not less conspicuous in the 
south, where the French First, Tenth, and Fifth Armies were 
directed towards the Hunding Line, the last German defences 
between the Oise and the Aisne. As early as the nth there were 
signs of a withdrawal from the Laon salient. The St. Gobain 
massif was relinquished, and at ten in the morning of the 13th 
Mangin's vanguard entered Laon, and Te Deum was sung in the 
great cathedral. The VH. and L German Armies were falling 
back on the Hunding Line, which ran along the Serre from its 
junction with the Oise, then along the Sissonne, and thence to 
the Aisne at Conde-lez-Herpy. Behind that line lay another, the 
Hagen, which was the protection of the lateral railway at Hirson, 
as the Siegfried zone had been its protection in the Valenciennes 



I9i8] FALL OF LE CATEAU 3S5 

section. By the 15th Mangin and Guillaumat were in touch with 
the front Hunding position. On their left Dcbcney, with the 
French First Army, held the western bank of the Oise, from the 
mouth of the Serre to near Hauteville, whence he stretched north 
to the west of Mennevret till he linked up with Rawlinson at Vaux 
Andigny on the Sella. 

The next move lay with Haig. Already he was within eight 
miles of Valenciennes. It was his business to force the Selle posi- 
tions, and reach a front from the Sambre-et-Oise Canal by the 
western edge of the Forest of Mormal to Valenciennes, and so 
destroy the section of the main railway north of Avesnes. The 
advance began wath an attack by Rawlinson at 5.20 on the morning 
of Thursday the 17th. He had in line, from right to left, the 9th, 
2nd American, and 13th Corps, embracing the 46th, ist, 6th, 30th 
American, 27th American, 50th and 66th Divisions, while Debeney 
moved forward in support on his right. The battleground ran 
from Le Cateau southward for ten miles, including the upper 
course of the Selle and the difficult wooded slopes about Bohain. 
The Germans were in strength, and for two days offered a gallant 
resistance ; but Le Cateau fell to the 13th Corps, after a fine 
attack by the reconstituted South African Brigade, and by the 
evening of the 19th the enemy's salient at Bohain had been wiped 
out, he had been driven from the upper Selle, and forced beyond 
the Sambre-et-Oise Canal almost everywhere south of Catillon. 
This meant the loss to the Germans of the new water-line south 
of Le Cateau. Moreover, Debeney was not only across the canal 
with his left, but across the Oise itself with his centre and right 
between Ribemont and Mont d'Origny, whence his line ran south- 
eastward to Pouilly on the Serre. 

Next day Byng struck with the 38th, 17th, 5th, 42nd, 62nd, 
Guards, and 19th Divisions, and Home's right division, the 4th, 
co-operated. His aim was the Selle line north of Le Cateau to 
Denain, five miles from Valenciennes, where that stream joins the 
Scheldt. Here again the enemy resisted stoutly, and he had had 
time to wire his positions. Nevertheless, v/e forced the passage 
of the Selle, took Solesmes, fought our way, with the assistance 
of tanks, up the eastern slopes, and by the close of the rainy after- 
noon were looking down on the little valley of the Harpies. On 
the left. Home reached the left bank of the Ecaillon River, and 
took Denain. All along the line there was a conspicuous advance. 
BIrdwood was now within two miles of Tournai, Plumer and 
Degoutte were crossing the Lys on a wide front, and the Belgians, 



386 A HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR [Oct. 

having taken Bruges and Zeebrugge, lay along the Lys Canal from 
Deynze to the Dutch frontier. 

The Selle position had fallen, and Haig could now move towards 
his larger objective, the line from Valenciennes to the Sambre-et- 
Oise Canal along the west edge of the Mormal Forest. The enemy 
was seeking a new water-front, the Scheldt and the Sambre Canal, 
each broad and navigable, and therefore formidable barriers against 
tanks, but separated by a wide neck of land. He was about to lose 
another part of his lateral line, for the Valenciennes section was 
almost out of use ; but if he could hold the Mormal Forest, he had 
an alternative — the branch from Avesnes to Maubeuge and Mons, 
and thence to Ghent and Brussels. The position was a strong 
one — the Scheldt, the Sambre Canal, and the Mormal forest — but 
it had one weak spot. Between the Scheldt and the northern end 
of the forest was a gap of ten miles. Across this gap ran two 
little streams, the Ecaillon and the Rhonelle, and on these the 
enemy proposed to stand. If Haig broke through that gap, the 
whole position must crumble. 

Haig struck in force on Wednesday, 23rd October, on a front 
of fifteen miles from a point north-east of Haussy to Mazinghien, 
south of Catillon. On the first day Rawlinson, on the right, attacked 
at 1.20 in the morning, with the 9th and 13th Corps, embracing 
the 1st, 6th, 25th, and i8th Divisions, while Byng, on the left, 
brought into action the 5th, 4th, 6th, and 17th Corps, including 
the 33rd, 2 1st, 5th, 42nd, 37th, New Zealand, 3rd, 2nd, and 19th 
Divisions. Next day the 6ist Division of the 17th Corps, and 
Home's right, the 4th and 51st Divisions of the 22nd Corps, extended 
the battle five miles farther north to the Scheldt. The Battle of 
the Rivers — the Scheldt, the little streams in the gap, the Sambre- 
et-Oise Canal, and farther south the Serre and the Aisne and the 
Meuse — was now beginning : the last of the great conflicts in the 
West. Everywhere on the centre and left the Allies were now 
in open country, and facing hastily prepared field defences ; 
but in the south Mangin and Guillaumat, Gouraud and Persh- 
ing, had still to carry the final system fortified on the old enemy 
plan. 

The problem before Pershing had now become the most difficult 
of that of any army commander. The German position in the 
Argonne was nearly invulnerable to frontal attack, and the plan of 
pressing forward on both sides of the wooded ridge was foreseen by 
the enemy, and made difficult by prepared defences of the greatest 
strength and tlie intractable nature of the terrain. The American 



I9i8] PERSHING'S "WILDERNESS CAMPAIGN" 387 

First Army was given a task like the British at the Battle of the 
Somme, and, like the British, suffered from its lack of experience 
and its too audacious gallantry. It had not yet learned, as 
the commands of Haig and Petain had learned, caution and 
wiliness by bitter experience. Haig's armies had now behind them 
a marvellously complete organization, which enabled them to fight 
continuously, and which could not have been improvised. But 
while some part of Pershing's difficulties were no doubt due to 
the lack of the proper co-operation between infantry, artillery, 
transport, and aircraft, which cannot be learned in a few months, 
it must not be forgotten what was Pershing's purpose. His